The pilots of Northwest Airlines have threatened to strike if management proceeds with plans to launch a new regional airline as proposed in a newsletter distributed to the company’s 34,000 employees last month. Tentatively named NewCo, the new unit would replace Northwest’s DC-9s with one hundred five 77- to 100-seat jets flying as a Northwest Airlink affiliate. Northwest wants the new airline up and running next year and staffed with pilots and flight attendants drawing salaries typical among regional airlines flying 50- to 70-seaters. That means pilots now flying DC-9s would see their salaries slashed in half while they lose pension and 401k benefits.
Northwest has threatened to ask a bankruptcy court judge to vacate its union contracts if the employees do not agree to its terms. If that happens, said the union, it will send strike ballots to its members. The new airline will need 800 pilots by 2010, when Northwest hopes to have finished taking deliveries of all 105 airplanes.