Northwest Airlines memorabilia becomes big with collectors

northwest airlinesTwo years after being absorbed by Delta, Northwest Airlines has become a hot ticket again among airline collectors. Airline museums in Minnesota and Atlanta are seeking artifacts from Northwest and all things NWA-related are selling on eBay, according to the Detroit Free Press.


“It was the airline everyone loved to hate, but you know what? People are starting to miss it,” said Bruce Kitt of the NWA History Centre in Bloomington, Minnesota. The curator of the Delta museum is seeking NWA items such as children’s airline wings that represent the “passenger experience.”

The airline once jokingly referred to as “Northworst” joins other defunct airlines such as Pan Am, TWA, and the Concorde (technically a part of still-flying Air France but a big draw for aviation enthusiasts) as brands with hotly-demanded memorabilia. “Airline collectors are a dying breed, but if you go to any shows, the strangest one I’ve ever seen is a guy in a bright yellow baseball cap that says, ‘I buy barf bags,’ ” Kitt said. “Here’s a guy who just collects motion-sickness bags, including the first ones from the 1920s.” Airplane models, brochures, and safety cards are popular items, and silverware and china (they weren’t always plastic) are often for sale at New York’s Fishs Eddy home store.


If you’re visiting Minneapolis, or just flying through MSP Airport, you can visit the NWA History Centre via light rail to Bloomington’s 34th Street Station. The Delta Air Transport Heritage Museum south of Atlanta is free to visit with special hours to view aircraft interiors.

Do you collect airline items, from current or defunct airlines? Tell us about your finds.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Ted Kerwin.

China Airlines fined for price fixing

China Airlines is the latest carrier to get fined for price-fixing air cargo rates. The Taiwan-based airline plead guilty and now faces a $40 million fine. Northwest Airlines has also plead guilty.

A total of 18 airlines have been snared by the Department of Justice in an ongoing investigation. Eight airline executives have also been charged. The Department of Justice has imposed a total of $1.6 billion in fines and given four executives jail time for a conspiracy that reaches back to early 2000. China Airlines was conspiring with other airlines to fix cargo rates to and from the United States, a violation of antitrust laws. Rates are supposed to be subject to the free market, but the airlines secretly agreed to set a rate in order to maximize profits.

For a complete list of the airlines and executives involved, click here.

Airlines continued to cut jobs – 25 months in a row

There’s a reason why airlines have positioned themselves for a solid performance in 2010: in addition to charging all those extra fees, they have been cutting positions (and thus expenses). In July alone, the industry in the United States trimmed 2.3 percent of its workforce relative to July 2009. That made 25 consecutive months of net job losses in the domestic airline sector.

According to the Department of Transportation‘s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 378,100 people were employed full-time by the airline industry in the United States in July 2010, a decline of 8,700 from July 2009. Five of the six network carriers cut positions, with Delta adding headcount only because of its Northwest acquisition. Only two low-cost carries reported net cuts for this period (Southwest and AirTran).

According to the Associated Press, maintenance and ticket agent positions are getting hit most:

While the number of in-flight airline employees like pilots and flight attendants is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration, the bulk of airline employees-maintenance crews, reservations and ticket agents-work on the ground and aren’t subject to federal minimums. Airlines are operating with less staff to save money, but they’re also outsourcing maintenance and other work to other countries where labor is cheaper.

[photo by aflcio via Flickr]

White Collar Travel: The upgrade rotation

Routine often breeds insight, and the form of business travel that once ruled my life was one of the variety that Ralph Waldo Emerson would have called “the hobgoblin of little minds.” During one project, which involved seven months of weekly roundtrips to Omaha (and platinum status on Northwest by June), I’d get to Logan Airport every Monday morning and see the same names called for upgrades. It was demoralizing. As my miles accumulated, I knew that theirs were, too, leaving me no closer to my goal.

Then, a strange thing happened when I crossed from silver to gold: I started to get the bump. The people normally summoned up to the gate – who I had come to know by sight and the first three letters of their last name – were no longer on my flight. The upgrade candidates behind them were getting the first nod, and occasionally, I’d pick up some first class table scraps. Two months later, I was at the top of the list.

My business partner, who joined me in this weekly grind, noticed the change, as well. Having gotten this far, it didn’t take us long to put the rest together. The people who used to beat us to the upgrades had rolled off their projects: their work was done, and they had moved on to gigs in other cities. We still had plenty of Omaha time in front of us and relished the thought of having to compete with only the people paying for first class, and the occasional heavy-hitter who was taking a rare trip in our direction.Watching this unannounced changing of the guard is good for a morale boost in a life where pleasant surprises just aren’t frequent enough. It entails a sense of accomplishment, a touch of prestige and an expectation of a little more comfort. Everything that cuts your way carries disproportionate weight when you’re a road warrior.

So, if you’re among the many making the weekly “commute” to another part of the country on a long-term project, watch the pre-boarding process, and celebrate when those familiar faces disappear. It means you’re getting closer to a wider seat and coffee in a ceramic mug. There’s a rhythm to business travel, much of it defined by the work the passengers do. Get in synch with it, and the lifestyle becomes much easier to bear.

BBC simulates Northwest Flight 253 bomb – plane survives

The BBC enlisted the help of an explosives expert and a pilot with structural engineering and air accident experience, to determine the kind of damage the would-be Northwest 253 bomber would have caused.

On their site, you can see a video clip of the immense explosion, and the stresses caused to the outside of the plane. Thankfully, the experts concluded that the blast would not have destroyed the Boeing 747, and that the plane would have been able to land safely.

That isn’t to say that the explosion would have been a horrible thing to experience – the force of the blast would have killed the bomber and his seatmate, ruptured eardrums of many passengers, and blown body parts throughout the plane. The smoke, heat and noise would have made the whole thing quite traumatic.

Check out the BBC article for the video clip of this explosion, and an explanation of the kind of damage caused. The results of this test will be shared with governments and aviation experts around the world.

(As a commenter points out, the NW253 bomb was on an Airbus A330, not a Boeing 747)