Could Mean Long Commutes For Flight Crews
at Delta Air Lines will waste no time in putting the right planes
on the right routes, after the carrier's planned merger/acquisition
of Northwest Airlines is completed later this year. By summer 2009,
a number of different aircraft sporting Northwest liveries could be
flying out of Delta's hub in Atlanta.
The Minneaspolis Star-Tribune reports both carriers' fleets will
operate separately for about the first year of the merger, as Delta
waits for the FAA to sign off on a joint operating certificate. But
that doesn't mean Delta executives can't tell Northwest crews where
to fly from... and that could mean some grief for crews trained on
types unique to Northwest.
"We can move our planes around as soon as the merger is
complete," said Joanne Smith, Senior VP of In-flight Services at
The two carriers operate diverse fleets... with only the Boeing
757 common between the two (and even those planes are distinct
between the two airlines, with Northwest operating larger -300s, in
addition to the many -200 subtypes flown by both carriers.)
Northwest also operates a fleet of DC-9s, as well as Airbus A319s
and A320s, and Airbus A330 and Boeing 747 widebodies.
Over at Delta, the carrier flies MD-88 and MD-90 narrowbodies --
much modernized versions of Northwest's AARP-eligible Douglas jets
-- as well as Boeing 737s, and widebody 767 and 777 twinjets.
Since they work for the acquiring team, Delta crews will have
little to worry about as far as crew relocations... but Northwest
crews, trained on types largely foreign to Delta, will need to
follow the jets they're rated on, wherever Delta decides to put
That will likely mean long commutes for Northwest employees.
Should Delta chose to move Northwest's 747s to Atlanta from their
current home in Minneapolis, flight attendants would still be able
to live near MSP... but they'll need to fly to ATL to work.
Smith said Delta will try to ease those transitions, though she
notes "Moving flight attendants to fly the airplane in this
industry is not unusual."
Apart from personnel issues, it will be interesting for industry
watchers to see how Delta shifts its newly-combined fleet. Many
expect Northwest's DC-9s are not long for the new Delta, as they
guzzle far more fuel than Delta's newer 737s. The same is likely
true for Northwest's 747s... which cost far more to operate than
Delta's 777s, although they do offer over 100 additional seats.
Perhaps the most interesting question arises over Northwest's
Airbus fleet... as Delta has never operated planes from the
European planemaker, and has the reputation as a Boeing-friendly