Yes, you really do need a pilot to fly the plane

And NorthWest Airlines is learning that the hard way.

For the second consecutive month NW is cancelling hundreds of flights as month end approaches. Apparently they don’t have enough pilots to operate all the 757s and DC-9s that they have on the schedule each month – the bulk of their domestic aircraft. So as the pilots hit the maximum airtime allowed under their contract they have to stop working (or choose to, depending on which side of the argument you subscribe to) and then the flights are cancelled, leaving hundreds of travelers stranded across the country. Not such a big deal if airlines weren’t reporting record loads across the industry, but with all the carriers pretty well booked up things get pretty ugly for some who are getting stuck.

On the plus side, they’ve hired back a couple hundred pilots, and they cut a huge chunk of their schedule (4%) and they’re planning on putting bigger birds on many routes, hoping to avoid the problems in August. Of course, they may not have too many passengers left by then if it stays this ugly.

But if you are flying on NW you can get some great equipment on the MSP-SEA route, and rumor has it that they are going to bring some 747s into domestic service to help out until they get all the other pilots back on board. Just like the golden age of air travel, when every flight was a big bird.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.