Northwest Airlines Loves Canceling Flights

Northwest Airlines is experiencing some serious problems with canceled flights. What is the reason? Is it the weather? Martians? Roving gangs of flying zebras? Nope. They have a pilot shortage. This could probably be solved by hiring more pilots, but well, who are we to judge?

From USAToday:

Northwest spokesman Roman Blahoski said Monday that the carrier completed 96% of its flights over the weekend and expected to complete 97.2% of Monday’s schedule.

That is much improved from the corresponding days in June, but still short of the industry’s usual 98% target.

Those numbers also were worse than rival network airlines’ performances, according to data from

On Sunday, Northwest canceled 76 flights, or 5.6% of those tracked by In comparison, American canceled six flights, or 0.3% of those tracked; United, 33, or 1.9%; and Delta, four, or 0.2%. All offer more daily flights than Northwest.

Consumers who do not enjoy having their flights canceled for no real reason should avoid booking with Northwest until they get this sorted out.

Coming up short on pilots, Northwest cancels flights [USAToday]


Edit Your Comment

  1. egogg says:

    My NW flight from Denver to Memphis was canceled a couple of weeks ago. No reason was given, and I was handed a $25 voucher for my “next booking” which, of course, I will never use. NW has yet to get back to me after I sent them a scathing complaint email.

  2. skittlbrau says:

    See, the not flying on Northwest thing is good advice only if you don’t live in or need to fly to Minneapolis or Detroit. Then its tough luck for you – they’re pretty much the only game in town there.

  3. WindowSeat says:

    I’m watching this situation closely since I have a flight to Europe booked with Northwest later in the year.(best price I could get and I shopped HARD)

    Delta just pulled out of the local airport so Northwest and USAir are my only choices these days. Time to move.

  4. FMF says:

    Tell me about it. I’m near Detroit and have my whole family’s vacation riding on Northwest’s ability to simply do what they say they’ll do (get me to Orlando.) Thank goodness it’s later in the year — maybe they’ll have some of the problems worked out by then.

  5. Xerloq says:

    I think the reason they’re canceling flights is because of roving gangs of flying, Martian zebras in the weather.

  6. Joe Hass says:

    To be clear: the problem arises near the end of the month, when pilots run out of time in the air. Their union contract caps them at 90 hours per month; as the end of the month approaches, the airline runs out of pilots and has to start canceling flights. So it’s okay to fly NW before the 20th of the month; after that, watch out!

    And a friendly reminder: them not having pilots is not a force majeur event. Your ass is their responsibility under Rule 240.

  7. Bryan Price says:

    My wife now flies to Calgary for work. Through her work’s travel agency, she got flights booked through Delta that were actually on NWA. She made it there yesterday. I hope she makes it home Friday.

    Interesting, Joe Hass!

  8. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @Joe Hass: Wow must be nice to only work 90 hours a month…damn even the french work more than that.

  9. cornish says:

    “still short of the industry’s usual 98% target”

    Perhaps it’s must me, but should the industry set the goal of completing 100% of their flights?

  10. BigHeadStu says:

    Ahh, NorthWORST…the most GODAWFUL airline in the sky…Indiana Jones did better flying on Lao Che Air Freight in Temple of Doom.

    @ Joe Hass – EXCELLENT point, because I am sure that those pilots, recently victims of pay cuts to extract the company from bankruptcy only to witness the airline turn around and shower their execs with MILLIONS in bonuses, would gladly find some extra time in the flight schedule to “do the airline a favor” by flying a little longer…fat chance.

    Furthermore, guess who flies some old planes?? If you guessed NorthWORST you might be right. Average age of their fleet: 10.9 years (source: []) and the majority of their planes are over that age…

    So why the vitriol you might wonder…well, because my girlfriend was a recent victim of this nefarious airline. Scheduled to fly from Washington National to Appleton, WI, via Detroit this past Thursday. I must point out that she was SCHEDULED to fly at 7:30 am, but they had a broken plane…hmm…cough–OLD FLEET–cough…well, they rebooked her on the next available flight. (which due to incompetent gate staff who manage crowds VERY poorly, was actually 2 flights later–the 2:33pm)

    Here’s where inconvenience goes to anger in a hurry…the weather started to set it…DC got socked in with thunderstorms and rain that lingered till 5:00 or so. So they didn’t board the plane until about 4:00…which still had to be crewed and loaded with luggage. The plane finally pushed at 4:30 or so back and did the parking lot on the tarmac game. For the next 2 and a half HOURS…they finally took off at 7:00. 4 and a half hours after that planes scheduled departure, almost 12 hours after her originally scheduled departure, and after spending 12.5 hours in National Airport, in the A terminal…which to those who know it, know that it isn’t particularly modern.

    I have been trying to raise the issue with NorthWORST customer service, but all I get is the automated line in North Dakota–attached to a LOCAL number, not even a 1-800 number!!–that tells me that they are too busy and are unable to take my call at this time, which then HANGS UP! WTF!!

    Now I understand that the weather was a force majuer, but if they had better maintenance in the first place, my girlfriend wouldn’t have had to deal with the thunderstorms. UGH…

    Needless to say, next time, I don’t care if Midwest costs 600 dollars per ticket cause they are all booked–which is why I took a gamble on NorthWORST in this situation…I will pay for the likelihood that I (or she) will get there in a reasonable fashion.

  11. SpecialK says:

    Just imagine: “As an open-heart surgeon I strive hard to make my goal of completing 98% of the surgeries I book.”

  12. peokuk says:


    “Furthermore, guess who flies some old planes?? If you guessed NorthWORST you might be right. Average age of their fleet: 10.9 years (source: []) and the majority of their planes are over that age…”

    Half their planes would be over that age, not a majority.

  13. Jiminy Christmas says:

    @Nemesis_Enforcer: Uh dude, that’s only actual flight hours. IIRC, that includes time in the air plus 30 minutes each at the departure and arrival gates. Any time pilots spend sitting around airports due to delays, overnight layovers away from home, etc. isn’t paid. They may not be actually flying a plane during that time, but they aren’t at home in their Barcalounger either.

  14. rmz says:

    @peokuk: Not necessarily. An example:

    20 years old
    15 years old
    11 years old
    11 years old
    1 year old
    1 year old

    Average = 9.83 years old. However, 2/3 of the planes are over that age.

  15. BigHeadStu says:


    Actually, it was I, not cornish making the assertion about the ages..,

  16. BigHeadStu says:

    @BigHeadStu: ARGH, not finished, stupid IE…

    As I was saying, the majority of their fleet is over that age…the use of the term average allows for Outliers, like their 2 and 5 year old planes, which skew the average low…RMZ made that point beautifully…

    go to the link that I sourced, and count the number of planes over 10 years old and the number under 10 years old…

    let me crib for you a little:
    Total Fleet: 272
    <10= 93 (34%) 93/272 = ~34%
    >10= 179 (66%) 179/272 = ~66%

    66% is a strong majority, no matter how you look at it…

    And all I said was that the MAJORITY of their planes are over 10 years old…which is true…

  17. skittlbrau says:

    Perhaps the median age of their fleet would be a better measure, no?

  18. BigHeadStu says:

    to a point, yes…it’s that whole philosophy behind mean, median and mode, and frankly, I HATED statistics…but in concession, the median age in this case, I believe is 11.3 (statisticians out there, any help?)

    Using mean age serves to be more to the airlines advantage in this case, right? 10.3 vs 11.3

  19. Jesse Pink says:

    @baa: Try living in a city, like Minot, ND, where Northwest is the ONLY option. At least if you’re flying out of Minneapolis or Detroit other airlines are available. Northwest is my only option here and is guaranteed to add at least $200 to any plane ticket.

  20. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    Average age of AA planes is 14.3 years old…just as a reference.

  21. RespectfullyLloyd says:

    As a 21 year employee of NWA (FLIGHT ATTENDANT) it is quite an embarrassment to read all of these comments. We, the employees, are tied to what management, READ DOUG STEENLAND, has done to this airline. This use to be a great place to work and a great industry.

    First they being the “talent” of NWA rapes every contract on the property via the bankruptcy system/process. Mechanics union -BUSTED and jobs outsourced to China. Follow the production process of RED TAIL – the Movie @ [] .

    Pilots are forced to take a 40% paycut.

    Ground staff take a large paycut -not sure the % amount. Ground staff at smaller stations throughout the system were given pink slips and your new gate agents are making probably $10.00 an hour with a GED education. Want to hear some of the horror stories of these outsourced stations? There are plenty. LMK and they can be posted as they happen daily through out.

    Flight Attendants take a 40% paycut overall after rejecting 2 contracts.

    We have been screwed royally. The employees of NWA are retiring and quitting in droves. New hire FA’s (Flight Attendants) are leaving after 2-3 weeks on the job when they see how it really is. Pilots are retiring early to improve their quality of life. 90 hours a months sounds great to you? You come see what 90 hours equates to.

    BIGHEADSTU – Yes many of our new gate staff are incompetent. DC still has some of the old school agents that could care less anymoreas their skin is tough as a dried up zebra pelt. What do you think it is like to have 200 people fuming and spewing venom at you? You trade spots for a day or in this case ZEBRA stripes. In your efforts to reach a customer service rep perhaps you should call China and speak to the people who now work on your planes. I think the # is 1-800 CHP-LABR/1 800 OUT-SRCD/1 800 BST-UNON. All #’s work.

    We are tired of the complaints in which we have no control over. TIred of the delays and rescheduling to our lives as are you. We are tired of scratching to make ends meet on less pay while working more hours.

    NWA is a sad place and a sad airline with quality people whose “caring attitude” and “can do” attitude are cracked.

    When your flight cancels due to weather we are not the Lord above who caused it. When your plane sits on the tarmac we are not the DOT/FAA who controls the traffic. When your pilot has reached is daily max on hours he can work it is not his fault NWA has no reserve coverage or even pilots.

    Direct your comments and complaints to:


    This is the top! The CEO. The “executive talent”. The man who rakes in 26.6 million ($26,600,000.00) while every employee of NWA takes a pay cut. The man every union has requested to the Board of Directors to leave.

    You will continue to fly NWA because NWA has the cheapest fares. You know it and I know it. Want some change? Start speaking with your wallets and go elsewhere. That is what I will be doing in 6 weeks.

    Now let us look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas………. both holidays fall on the latter part of the month………….. do you really think NWA will have this staffing shortage fixed by then? NO! Do you think many of the pilots will have reached the yearly max they can fly? YES! Did you even know pilots can only fly X hours per calendar year?

    Where is that going to leave Santa Claus and his team of 9 Zebras?

    Good luck in getting to where you are going. For me, I am going home……………..

  22. krom says:

    Even William “the public be damned” Vanderbilt realized that the trains had to run on time.

  23. Teapotfox says:

    Never flown with Northwest, but I had a heck of a time trying to get back to Philadelphia from Las Vegas on USAir recently. Checked out of the hotel, returned the rental car, and arrived at McClellan airport nice and early to find my nonstop was cancelled for maintenance, and the best they could do for me was put me on a red-eye to Columbus, OH that left seven and a half hours after my original flight. Oh, and then I had a three-hour layover in the Columbus airport and a crummy flight in one of those tiny commuter planes back to Philadelphia. AND when the airline employee was labeling my checked bag, she labeled it for Dallas/Ft. Worth instead of Philadelphia before my sister pointed out her error.

    I missed a day of work because of all this, and what did I get for my troubles? A ten-dollar meal voucher good for McCarran airport only.

  24. jobaecker says:

    Funny. Northwest has been flying for…about 80 years now. Sure, there have been challenges along the way. World wars, 9-11. But excuse me, weather and cranky pilots? I don’t think so. You’d think Northwest would have figured out over the last 8 decades that 1)Weather delays happen and 2) A certain amount of pilots will be unavailable due to sickness, FAA worktime restrictions, etc. Schedules are built months in advance. An airline of this size has no excuse to give the flying public. Fix your internal problems and get on with it.