Reduced Flight Schedule Implemented
As the sun set on the
first day of the mechanics strike at Northwest Airlines, the
beleaguered carrier reassured its customers that all efforts were
being made so their travel plans would be unaffected by what the
company is calling a "union slowdown" - in spite of quietly
reducing its scheduled service by approximately 17 percent.
Stepping back from statements made the day before that the
carrier would be able to fly its regular summer schedule unaffected
by the strike, on Saturday Northwest switched to its
reduced-service fall schedule, several weeks earlier than usual.
Carriers reduce the number of flights after the busy summer travel
season, as passenger loads decrease.
There were also a few reports of cancelled flights, though no
specifics were given by Northwest.
Andy Roberts, Vice President of Operations for the nation's
fourth-largest carrier, stressed that all maintenance issues in the
interim would be handled by replacement mechanics, and that a
backlog of minor issues among Northwest's fleet - the oldest among
domestic carriers - would be taken care of by the end of the
"We certainly don't expect delays to increase," Roberts said.
"As we work through these maintenance write-ups, the operation
should continue to improve."
Replacement workers in
Detroit had a major maintenance job to handle, when a landing 757
blew out four tires on the runway. The airline stated that the
cause was likely due to an issue with the aircraft's antiskid
braking system that had nothing to do with the strike.
There have been relatively few reports of intentional damage as
a result of the strike. According to Hal Myers, spokesman for
the Air Line Pilots Association, a few tractors used to push planes
back from the gates in Detroit had damage to their ignitions. Some
jetways also had keys broken off in their locks.
"We didn't see anything done to the aircraft that would pose a
safety threat," Myers said. He added that Northwest pilots have
stated the airline appeared to be running smoothly, and that a
24-hour call center is being operated to handle pilot concerns.
Unlike the last strike at Northwest that resulted in the
grounding of the airline for 20 days in 1998, this time pilots,
flight attendants and other ground workers are staying on the job
as the mechanics strike. A federal judge barred mechanics at
Northwest regional carrier Mesaba Airlines from conducting a
Nevertheless, Steve MacFarlane, assistant national director for
the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, maintained that
Saturday's cancellations and reduced flight schedules may not be
the worst issues facing Northwest while its strike continues.
"As airplanes break through the normal flight day, these
airplanes need to get fixed. And if these guys can't fix them they
get set off to the side," MacFarlane said. "We're confident that
over a period of time it begins to snowball, and they're going to
have a real problem maintaining their schedule."
"We never thought there was going to be an instantaneous effect
from us walking off the job," MacFarlane added.