Northwest layoffs to be announced today; federal relief pending

by Justin Ware

Northwest will announce Friday workforce reductions it will make in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the East Coast.

Several other airlines of similar size have already announced cutbacks this week.

On Sept. 15, Northwest said it would be reducing its flight capacity 20 percent. The new flight schedule takes effect Oct. 1.

“If it’s a real slow night, they’ll send people home,” said Mark Gore, a University senior and Northwest employee.

Gore said the airline has been facing tough times for at least the past couple of months and subsequently looked into reducing its number of employees before the Federal Aviation Administration grounded all U.S. air traffic after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“They were well prepared for (cutting back employees),” he said.

Other airlines also announced labor force cuts.

Last weekend, Continental announced it would be releasing 12,000 employees.

Boeing, one of the world’s leading airline manufacturers, said Wednesday that it expects to lay off as many as 20,000 to 30,000 employees by the end of 2002.

Two of the country’s largest airlines followed suit Thursday – United and American Airlines each said they would have to lay off about 20,000 employees.

“This is, without a doubt, the most difficult thing I have had to do in my two decades at American,” said American Airlines Chairman and CEO Don Carty.

American said it would make cuts in nearly all areas, including management and support staff.

According to the press release, the airline would not be able to give any of the “traditional separation practices,” or severances, to its employees as they would not be “financially feasible.”

American and United, reductions notwithstanding, employ 138,000 and 100,000 respectively – nearly twice the number employed by Northwest.

Like Northwest, both larger airlines reduced their flight capacities by 20 percent.

“Our company’s very survival depends on dramatic change to our operations, our schedule and worst of all, our staffing levels,” Carty said.

Airlines say the combination of reduced passenger demand, being shut down for almost two days and increased FAA security demands – for which airlines currently pay – have created a dire situation for the multi-billion-dollar business.

Executives from many of the nation’s large carriers met in Washington, D.C., this week to ask for federal assistance to offset some of their costs.

“Without this relief, the viability of the nation’s air transportation system is in doubt,” United Airlines Chairman and CEO James Goodwin said.

Goodwin said the airlines’ role in helping the world recover from the Sept. 11 attacks is instrumental.

“The airline industry’s contributions to the U.S. gross domestic product and its ability to connect business and communities across the globe will be critical,” he said.

Facing decreased demand for new plane deliveries, Boeing has pursued other options to continue its operations.

In a press release, Boeing said it is working to apply its military aircraft and missiles in the war against terrorism.

Phil Condit, Boeing chairman and CEO, said, “The company is ready to apply all of its wide-ranging technological resources in stepping up to the challenges created by these tragic events.”