Another reason Northwest profits even in quarters that other cartel carriers do not are those 160+ venerable DC-9s and, to a lesser degree, the 20 or so DC-10s and the handful of 747-200s. 85 or 90% of these aircraft are fully purchased and paid off (i thought i read somewhere that a dozen or so DC-9s and some of the 747-200s were leased). Back in the early to mid '90s when Northwest was in dire straits and just out of Ch. 11 itself management made the seemingly unpopular decision to retrofit the tired-looking cabin interiors of the 1960s and 1970s era DC-9 fleet rather than place a large order for new aircraft. They did place the airbus orders to replace the large 727 fleet and for expansion purposes, but lots of money was spent as well on new interiors for the 165 or so DC-9s, the 747-200 fleet, and half of the 757-200 fleet which now is 15-20 years old themselves.
Compile that with the fact that, while older planes can be more costly to maintain, Northwest's DC-9s are beautifully maintained, and have the highest dispatch rate of any aircraft in the fleet. As it is frequently mentioned, pilots at Northwest joke that when the final A319 is ferried out to Mojave, its crew will ride back to Detroit in a red-tailed DC-9.
Because whenever a Northwest -9 lifts off it signals almost pure profit, NW
is able to run their DC-9s on routes other cartel carriers would have CRJs and ERJs on. Detroit-Traverse City, Minneapolis-Grand Forks, Minneapolis-Rochester, MN
, Memphis-Ft. Walton Beach/Valpairaiso, FL
...all these routes have at least a couple DC-9 turns daily. One must think that CO
, a great airline in of itself, would have nothing to do with these cities from their hubs if it wasn't for the ERJ.
So, for a laymen that doesn't know one aircraft from another besides maybe seating arrangements, the Northwest -9 looks the same to them as would an Airtran B717 (interiors are quite similar, indeed). Fact is a Northwest DC-9, 37 years old, makes US Airways 737-300s look like planes from a 3rd world carrier. Some of the DC-9s look better on the interior than the earliest NW
And for the business traveler who prefers a mainline aircraft to a regional jet or turboprop, the DC-9 fits that bill too. I'd say if it was not for that plane, Northwest might not be so successful.
Notice I do not say the same for the DC-10 and 747-200. I've never been on the 747-200 so I cannot speak on it but it appears that travelers have spoken and they want something newer on premium routes and NW
listened and now we see them getting new A330s. Apparently the 747-200 are to be short-lived also, relegating the DC-10s eventually to Hawaii and Beach Market routes, where they are a great fit and likely will make NW
On the risk of sounding like a die-hard Northwest coddler, let me preface this with two things: 1) at least NW
doesn't start stupid sounding LCCs like "TED" and 2) NW
is not always great, my mother was delayed for 6 hours in New York b/c of them cancelling flights ex- GA
), USA - New York">LGA
for "weather delays" (thing is, CO
was running on time to DTW
, her destination, which puzzled me)...
makes money, is generally very solid (good on time rate), and since I consider Michigan home (currently I live in Savannah, GA
though), I think of Northwest as my 'hometown' airline and I want them to do well.