Wednesday, July 25, 2007

NWA still short of pilots, cancellations continue

Northwest Airlines logoIt's definitely starting to sound like a case of "We told you so."

This week the news media are full of reports again about the relatively high number of cancellations of Northwest Airlines (NWA) flights in recent days. This is the second month in a row that this has happened, and the reason cited is a shortage of pilots.

The union representing NWA's pilots, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), says that if there is a shortage of pilots at Northwest, it is the airline's own fault, claiming that NWA laid off too many pilots as a cost-cutting measure during bankruptcy reorganization.

The pilots warned the airline that this would be a problem. A statement issued last month by the ALPA's NWA MEC about the understaffing problem at Northwest said, in part:
Representatives of the pilots' union forecasted the pilot shortage and advised management months in advance. Unfortunately for all NWA shareholders, this forecast was correct resulting in unnecessary hardships being placed on all NWA employees and customers.

NWA management could have prevented the staffing shortage by expeditiously recalling the 400 furloughed pilots not yet back to work. Instead, management decided to run the airline beyond redline during the summer months resulting in the current flight cancellations.

"First, management blames the weather and that didn't work, so now they are trying to blame the pilots," [NWA ALPA spokesman] Capt. Montgomery said. "It is unfortunate management continues to seek a confrontational relationship with Northwest employees."
An article in USA Today about the most recent wave of NWA flight cancellations reports:
After last month's cancellations, Northwest announced in late June that it is speeding up the recall and retraining of laid-off pilots, altering the way it schedules pilots' time each month, and adopting new procedures for accommodating affected travelers.

The airline also said it will reduce its flight schedule by 3% beginning in August to make sure its pilots don't run out of flight time before a month ends.
Northwest pilots worry that this is a case of too little, too late.