U.S. News

Northwest Airlines Pins Flight Cancellations on Pilot Absences


Northwest Airlines canceled more flights as expected Saturday, with the company continuing to attribute the problem to pilot absenteeism.

Northwest did not release its own cancellation figures Saturday, but the Web site reported that it had called off 138 flights as of 3:30 p.m. EDT. It reported that 680 scheduled flights departed.

The airline had canceled a total of 125 flights Friday, the Web site reported.

Northwest expects to complete 93 percent of its flights Saturday, said Roman Blahoski, spokesman for the carrier, based in Eagan. The pilot absenteeism was affecting flights mainly on narrow-bodied aircraft, he said.

The airline had warned Friday that it would probably cancel more flights over the weekend.

The Northwest branch of the Air Line Pilots Association released a phone message to members Friday stating that it didn't believe there had been an improper use of sick time. If there was, the union suggested, it was caused by stress from increased flying hours.

The union has maintained that Northwest doesn't have enough pilots to fly its full schedule.

Northwest canceled more than 1,000 flights the last week of June, citing pilot availability and other factors, and announced this month that it had thinned out its July schedule and cut its August schedule by 4 percent to try to prevent a repeat.

The carrier also began recalling furloughed pilots and said it expects to hire 200 to 250 pilots in the next year. Furloughed pilots must be retrained before they can resume flying.