Carrier Contracted With Champion For Plane, Crew
As Northwest Airlines continues to
suffer from financial ills and rocky labor relations, the tension
at headquarters in Eagen, MN, is so thick you could cut it with a
knife. Now, new trouble has arisen over the company's use of a
Champion Air plane and crew on a flight from Detroit to DFW.
"The use of Champion Airlines to fly a very limited number of
flights is part of our commitment to serve our customers," the
Eagan-based airline said in a statement quoted by the St. Paul
But Wednesday's flight has greatly upset union pilots, who say
they have an exclusive arrangement with the airline -- they fly
whatever NWA flies.
"We had a frank and candid discussion about this blatant
violation of our contract," Mark McClain, head of the executive
council of the Air Line Pilots Association at Northwest, told the
Pioneer-Press. "I asked [Northwest CEO Doug Steenland] to cease and
desist further action."
But that may not happen. Even though
the ALPA has been one of the most forthcoming unions when NWA asked
for pay and benefit concessions, the airline says it was perfectly
within its rights to use Champion.
The charter service, based in Bloomington, MN, provides planes
and crews to airlines that don't have the capacity to meet
But Northwest's use of a Champion plane and crew only
exacerbates ill will between management and labor. This, in the
face of ongoing contract talks between the airline and its
mechanics. Those talks are set to resume next week after a 30-day
cooling-off period declared when the two sides reached an
Pilots have said they will continue
to work -- even if the mechanics carry through on their threat to
strike. But "Actions like this can stand in the way of any
cooperative effort to come up with a long-term solution," McClain
One outside observer told the Pioneer-Press NWA may have shot
itself in the foot by using the Champion plane and crew.
"While Northwest wants to make its strike contingency plan as
effective as possible, it has to avoid alienating the pilots," said
John Budd, a professor of human resources at the University of
Minnesota's Carlson School of Management.