Northwest museum to outlast the airline it honors

The remaining traces of Northwest Airlines may disappear from the fleet in 2010, but the airline will always have a home in Minnesota. A private, nonprofit museum dedicated to the carrier is going to stay open, even though the object of its affection will be integrated fully into the Delta fold. Delta has its own museum, which undoubtedly will celebrate the acquisition of Northwest someday, but this isn’t standing in the way of the folks at the NWA History Centre.

Located in Bloomington, Minnesota, the museum will maintain a separate record of Northwest, though it will be tough to add to the collection down the road. Pete Patzke, chairman of the museum’s board, tells Minnesota Public Radio, “The history stops today. There is no more Northwest.”

As the existence of the brand winds down, the museum has experienced an influx of memorabilia, with the mundane now assuming greater importance. Letterhead, building signs and other items of daily use are being submitted for the museum to catalog, store and perhaps display.

Northwest to disappear this year

Remember Eastern? Pan Am? Well, the next one to join the list of airline has-beens will be Northwest.

Northwest Airlines may have made it to the beginning of 2010, but won’t see another New Year’s Eve. The carrier, which was acquired by Delta in October 2008, has received permission from the FAA to ditch the Northwest name and operate the whole deal as Delta. The cutover process for “legacy Northwest” is expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter.

There are, of course, some kinks to be worked out. The entire Northwest operation needs to be folded into that of Delta, and everything from routes to labor to the codes on boarding passes need to be sorted out. Though some groups within Northwest have sorted out contracts and seniority lists, flight attendants, gate and reservation agents and ramp workers still have some work in front of them. Prior to the merger, Northwest was, according to The Associated Press, “heavily unionized,” and Delta wasn’t.

Fortunately, a lot of heavy lifting has been done already. More than 80 percent of the planes once labeled Northwest have been repainted for Delta, the two frequent flier programs have been consolidated and crews are standardized on one set of uniforms.

American Airlines is the one to watch in 2010

Could 2010 be the year for American Airlines?

Well, it’s hard not to see the light at the end of the tunnel after a decade of unusual airline severity. The market was shaken several times by terror attempts – including the attacks of 9/11 – economic pressures from the dotcom meltdown and the recent financial sector only made matters worse. Energy prices hit some peaks along the way, which, according to Joseph Lazzaro of our sister site, BloggingStocks, determines the fate of the U.S. airline sector.

But, AA in particular? The guys with the flight attendant who through a nutter over orange juice?

The stock is up 90% since June. To most travelers, this is not just irrelevant, but boring … until you think about how these matters can impact your experience on an airline. When a company is profitable, it has an easier time serving its customers. And, employees tend to relax a little bit, as profits and stock prices tend to be good signs that jobs won’t be disappearing (at least not in large amounts).Also, I use stock price as a proxy for intangibles, like brand strength, customer loyalty and other factors that are hard to quantify. At the end of the day, the price determined by investors takes all this stuff into account, giving customers and passengers a feel for how the airline is likely to treat it.

So, cast aside the recent high-profile debacles of this airline, including its recent runway faux pas in in Kingston, and think to the future. After all, everyone’s screwed up. United has its guitar-playing victim, and Northwest (and, as a result, Delta) watched a plane overshoot a destination. In a business where every player is scraping the bottom of the barrel, American may rise above, even if only slightly.

Man ignites small bomb on U.S. bound plane

A Nigerian man is under arrest after igniting a bomb on a plane bound for Detroit yesterday.

Abdul Mudallad, 23, used a powder strapped to his leg mixed with a syringe containing some sort of liquid to set off a small explosion on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam as it made its final descent into Detroit.

While the mixture did explode, the explosion was very small and the ensuing flames only harmed Mr. Mudallad, giving him third-degree burns on one leg. Passengers quickly tackled him. None of the other 278 passengers or 11 crew were injured. One passenger described the explosion as a “little pop”. The flames needed to be put out with a fire extinguisher.

President Obama has ordered increased security for air travel and the Department of Homeland Security has added extra screening measures.

The bomber was on a U.S. government database for having “a significant terrorist connection” although that did not qualify him for the “no-fly” list. Why someone with a significant terrorist connection can fly on a U.S. airline will doubtlessly be a major question in coming days.

Under questioning after the incident, Mr. Mudallad claimed he has connections with Al-Qaeda and got the chemicals for his bomb in Yemen.

Some reports state Mr. Mudallad is a student of University College London, but a search of the university’s online directory did not reveal his name. The directory, however, only lists students and faculty who have publicly available contact information.

UPDATE, Dec. 27 1242GMT: This post was made shortly after the incident occurred and was correct according to the latest reports at that time. Two details have emerged that should be addressed. The man’s name is now said to be Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and University College London states that he was a mechanical engineering student, but he is not currently enrolled. I felt it was best not to change the original post, as it is now of historic interest in showing how breaking news stories can change fundamentally over time, but since two later posts link to this one I felt I should update the name and university status. More details will doubtless emerge and be covered in later posts.

Early Christmas gift from the airlines – no advance purchase surcharges

After several years of adding additional fees and rules to our tickets, the airlines are finally giving us something back for the Holiday season.

Seven of the major carriers (American Airlines, United, Delta, Northwest, US Airways, Frontier, AirTran and Midwest) announced that they would waive all advance purchase rules for tickets between today and January 4th 2010.

What this means to last minute travelers is that an $1800 ticket will be about $1500 cheaper when purchased for same day travel.

Of course, the airlines wouldn’t be the the money makers we know them to be, without a bunch of restrictions on their sales:

The cheapest tickets are available on Dec. 16, 17, 25 and Jan. 1 and 4

The second cheapest level airfares are about 30% higher than the lowest fares. Travel for this level is valid on December 18, 20, 21, 24, 30 and 31.

The third cheapest level is about 55% higher than the lowest fares. Travel dates will be December 19, 22, 23, 26, 28 and 29.

December 27 and January 2 and 3 have not been included in the holiday fare sale – and those tickets could end up being substantially more expensive.

(Source: USA Today /

Bottom line is that even though the airlines appear to be the good guys, their complicated fare structure could end up costing passengers more. Travelers tend to book flights for the holiday season in advance, so removing last minute purchase rules really only benefits those that suddenly decide to go somewhere for Christmas or who run into sudden changes that require a last minute ticket purchase.