Local Impact Of Northwest Strike

August 22, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — As Northwest Airlines was bracing for a possible mechanics strike, officials at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport last week were hoping for the best.

Northwest offers more flights from Ford International than any other airline serving the airport. It's Michigan's largest passenger air carrier, with a major hub at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

Northwest management contends it has to reduce labor costs by $1.1 billion a year to avoid bankruptcy reorganization. The airline is seeking up to $176 million in annual concessions that include deep job cuts from the mechanics' union, Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association. The airline has 4,430 mechanics.

Northwest recently announced that it had 1,500 mechanics waiting in the wings should the union strike. In the event that any airline attendants decide to strike out of sympathy with the mechanics, the airline had substitute airline attendants lined up, too.

As of Friday, Ford International airport staff remained hopeful that an agreement would be reached, but it was looking more and more likely that Northwest mechanics would walk off the job on Saturday. If a walkout were to hinder Northwest operations, the airline could seek bankruptcy protection.

"If a strike ensues, Northwest airline management has stated that it will work to maintain a normal schedule, thus we would hope that a normal schedule would be maintained here," said Bruce Schedlbauer, Ford International's manager of marketing and communications.

Schedlbauer said that, historically, when Ford International has experienced service disruptions because of work stoppages by various airline employee groups, it has caused some minor, temporary disruption, but other airlines that serve the airport have always done an "outstanding" job of stepping up and accommodating passengers.

"I would anticipate much the same this time if it does come to that, which is one of the beauties of having the number of airlines and the breadth of service we have available here," he remarked.

"We certainly don't want to minimize the potential impact, but we're not assuming a strike at this point. If one does occur and if there is a less than normal schedule here on Northwest, we're confident the other airlines will do a very good job of picking up the slack."

Northwest currently offers 15 flights to four cities per day from Grand Rapids, including service to its Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Memphis hubs, as well as the area's only nonstop service to RonaldReaganWashingtonNationalAirport

The number of Northwest flights will increase Oct. 30 when the airline begins nonstop service from Ford International to Las Vegas. Flights will be offered on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday and will depart Grand Rapids at 9 p.m. and arrive in Las Vegas at 10:05 p.m. (EST). Return flights will depart Las Vegas at 11:10 p.m. and arrive in Grand Rapids at 5:55 a.m.

Grand Rapids is one of four "Heartland" cities the airline targeted for nonstop service to Las Vegas. Northwest also began nonstop service from Flint's BishopInternationalAirport to Las Vegas on Aug. 13.    

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