Detroit Metropolitan Airport is a haven for frequent fliers. Not only is it one of the most sophisticated airports in the country, it is home to one of the largest airline companies to date. Northwest Airlines operates flights to and from more than 900 cities, in 160 countries on six continents. With 700 flights a day from Detroit, Northwest is clearly the easy choice.

Since Northwest mechanics went on strike in mid August, there has been a great deal of speculation that traveling with the airline constitutes a mild level of “risk taking.” It has been argued that Northwest is lagging in performance and safety since it replaced its striking workers of the American Mechanics Fraternal Association with qualified mechanics from other airlines and third-party vendor mechanics. This replacement, if anything, has served Northwest Airlines for the better, which is now boasting higher numbers of on-time arrivals, in service aircraft and system completion – without jeopardizing safety and comfort.

Northwest Airlines anticipated this strike and therefore began training replacements 18 months prior to the labor dispute. According to the Northwest website, 85 percent of hired mechanics have had at least five years experience and 65 percent have had 10 years experience, on aircraft comparable to those used by Northwest. To argue that these mechanics are putting the lives of those who fly Northwest at risk would be to argue that all people who fly Continental, Delta, Jet Blue, Southwest, American and many other airlines are putting their lives at risk as well. Northwest drew mechanics from these companies, who were perhaps out of work or retired, re-trained them according to Northwest standards, and gave them work on aircraft that they were already familiar with. The only difference between a Jet Blue 757-200 and the same exact aircraft for Northwest is that the paint job of the Jet Blue 757 is a bit more representative of our Michigan motto.

I am a frequent traveler and have been flying Northwest since I was young. I used the airline for several weekend trips since the mechanics went on strike and have experienced Northwest’s efficiency and the way it has coped with the situation. I have found my experiences to be better than they were before the mechanics went on strike, and in some cases, my flights have come in early. At, three core graphs can be found that highlight three main subjects: the system completion factor, system arrivals within 14 minutes of scheduled time and the number of aircraft out of service. A line indicates a split between pre-strike and post-strike data. Surprisingly, the numbers of aircraft that are out of service have gone from an approximate high of 49 aircraft pre-strike to a record low of nine. Several weeks saw 100 percent of flights being completed post-strike. Finally, at some points before the strike, only 45 percent of flight arrivals were within 14 minutes of the designated time, while post-strike statistics boast a record high of 89 percent. It is clear from statistical data that the airline has not been greatly affected by its replacement mechanics.

Though disappointed with its inability to negotiate with the labor union, Northwest Airlines has managed to maintain its system performance to the best of its ability. When students travel home for future breaks, they need not fly Delta from Detroit to Atlanta – a Delta Airlines hub – to catch a connecting flight to Los Angels. All it takes is some confidence and faith in a reliable airline to get an easy direct flight from Motown to Hollywood.


Welford is an LSA freshman.

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