NWA Makes Deal With Pilots to Decrease Flight Cancellations

Last Updated Aug 20, 2007 5:20 PM EDT

Northwest Airlines has reached a tentative agreement with its pilots, addressing the post-bankruptcy staffing issues that resulted in excessive flight cancellations and many unhappy customers. Effective August 1, the deal gives pilots time-and-a-half for monthly hours beyond 80 (which had recently been increased to 90) and rewards them with a 15 percent bonus for perfect attendance in August. Additionally, flight instructors will receive incentives to train new and returning laid-off pilots. That is, if union leadership votes in favor of the pact this Saturday.

Union spokesman Wade Blaufuss said, "Northwest pilots gave over $4 billion over the course of the bankruptcy contract in concessions in order to save our company from liquidation. This agreement is a small but positive step toward recovering our careers."

After acknowledging that the work rules outlined in the bankruptcy contract caused the airline to "stub its toe" this summer, CEO Doug Steenland (who was recently rewarded with a $26.6 million bonus in stock and options) said, "This is an important part of our efforts to achieve operational reliability. It also serves as an excellent example of the success our airline can achieve when management and employees work together."

Based on the "stub its toe" analogy, some insiders feel Steenland doesn't realize the impact the concessions had on union workers, nor does he take responsibility for what many see as managerial shortcomings.

Terry Trippler, an airline consultant in Minneapolis said it best: "It's great that they're finally coming to an agreement, but it's an absolute shame that thousands of vacations had to be ruined to settle their differences. Northwest Airlines has unbelievably bad employee-management relations and it's going to take a long time to repair it, if it can even fix things."

Pilots are happy for now, but what's it going to take to get angry passengers back on board?