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Northwest thwarted by absences, weather

Thunderstorms and a shortage of pilots disrupt weekend flights.

July 30, 2007|From Bloomberg News

Northwest Airlines Corp., the fifth-largest U.S. airline, completed 92% of its three-day weekend schedule because of pilot absenteeism and thunderstorm-caused delays in the Northeast corridor Sunday, spokesman Roman Blahoski said.

As the airline headed into its busiest part of the week serving business commuters, Blahoski said he had no forecast for cancellations.

"Currently we are talking to the union to find ways to improve the reliability of our operations," Blahoski said. He declined to discuss whether the airline considered the absenteeism a work stoppage.

Delays of an hour because of thunderstorms were reported at 1:45 p.m. at John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports in New York; Newark Liberty International and Teterboro airports in New Jersey; General Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport in Boston; Philadelphia International Airport; Washington Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington National airports; and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Northwest will cut its domestic flight schedule by 90 hours a day in August, representing about 40 flights based on the carrier's average daily schedule, according to Bloomberg calculations, to increase the reserve of pilot hours in case of weather delays.

Monty Montgomery, a spokesman for Northwest's chapter of the Air Line Pilots Assn., said that "there's no effort by the pilots to disrupt the schedule. We're working at our personal maximum."

The pilots' union contract, negotiated last year when the carrier was in bankruptcy protection, raised crews' limits to 90 hours of flying a month from 80 hours before. U.S. law allows only 10 more hours of overtime above that.

Northwest said last week that it would reduce the maximum flying hours for pilots on narrow-body planes used for U.S. service to 86 next month, from 88 to 90 hours in June.

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