DC-9s Still Play Crucial Role For NWA
While the utilization and stage-lengths of Northwest's venerable DC-9 fleet has steadily decreased, "having a 100-seat airplane will always be an important piece of the Northwest fleet structure," airline CEO Doug Steenland believes.
Northwest will eventually replace the DC-9s but for now the aircraft are still an "important piece of our fleet," Steenland said at a Wings Club event in New York.
Given high and increasingly volatile fuel prices, the continuing reliance on the DC-9 is something of an anomaly, especially since Northwest has embarked on a fleet renewal plan that will see it adding more fuel efficient aircraft -- Airbus A330s, Boeing 787s, Embraer 175s and Bombardier CRJ-900s -- into the fleet.
But "because our DC-9 fleet is fully paid for, no promissory notes, no ownership costs, it is our variant piece of capacity," Steenland noted. Northwest is in a better position than other airlines, as it can "flex up...or flex down if fuel prices continue to go higher" and "park a DC-9 here or there and not continue to have to pay the overhead and ownership costs that come with that aircraft."
Steenland said Northwest has had discussions with both Bombardier and Embraer on potential 100-seat replacements but there is no timetable for a decision.
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