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Northwest + Delta = Delta

Northwest + Delta = Delta

Today (Wednesday October 29th 2008), the Justice Department approved the merger between Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines. The merger will be the largest airline in world bringing down American Airlines to the second position.

The combined airline will be called Delta with headquarters at Atlanta and Chief Executive as Richard Anderson.

From CNN Money

After a six-month investigation, government lawyers concluded the
merger would likely drive down costs for consumers without curbing
competition.
The proposed merger “is likely to produce substantial and credible
efficiencies that will benefit U.S. consumers and is not likely to
substantially lessen competition,” the Justice Department said in a
statement issued by its Antitrust Division.
The merger should create cost savings by combining airport operations,
information technology and other efficiencies, ultimately driving down
prices for fliers, the regulators said.

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Couple of weeks back on July 5th 2008, it was Cayman Air’s Boeing 737 and LAN Chile’s Boeing 767. Last week it was like “Déjà vu” – On Friday July 11th 2008, after an aborted landing on another runway, Delta Airlines’ flight 123 (Boeing 767 flying from Shannon Ireland) crossed flight path of a Comair’s flight 1520 (Bombardier CRJ900) that was taking off. The airplanes came within 600 feet of each other vertically and half-mile horizontally. These distances are very small especially with respect to the typical airplane landing and take off speeds of 185+ miles per hour.

As a result – “The FAA moved quickly to change takeoff and landing procedures at JFK on
perpendicular runways — the kind of runways involved in both incidents.

From Associated Press

Barrett Byrnes, who president of the controllers union at the JFK
tower, said controllers have long sought the procedure changes.

“The
FAA put out an order to JFK to no longer use that approach. That’s
exactly what we wanted to happen,” Byrnes said. “We’ve been trying to
change that for the last 12, 13 years. It’s been an accident waiting to
happen.””

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Earlier I had blogged about the use of PDAs/Cellphones as boarding passes. Delta Air Lines is starting to use this technology starting Tuesday June 17th 2008 at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Passengers can now pull up the boarding pass with the bar code image on their mobile phones (web-enabled) and scan it at the security checkpoint and boarding gates.

Earlier, Continental Airlines and Northwest Airlines had launched the program at some of their airports.

Smart phones seem to keep finding new uses! Go Iphone, Blackberry, Palm, etc.
From Atlanta Journal Constitution

Atlanta-based Delta, like
Continental and Northwest, is working under a Transportation Security
Administration pilot program. The TSA will use handheld scanners to
read the electronic bar codes, which are similar to those on the back
of Georgia driver’s licenses. The electronic boarding pass will not be
available for Delta Shuttle passengers.”

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With Delta Air Lines potentially ending the service agreement with Mesa Air Group (MAG) for 34 ERJ, MAG may have to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

From ATWonline –

“Delta notified MAG in late March
that it would terminate its agreement with Mesa subsidiary Freedom
Airlines, claiming that it failed to meet specified completion rates (ATWOnline, April 3).
Mesa denied the charge and filed a breach of contract lawsuit asking
for a preliminary injunction to prevent what it considered “wrongful
termination” of the agreement. A hearing is scheduled May 27-29 with a
ruling expected at the end of the proceedings.”

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On the same lines as Deltalina, the French Airline Air Liberté‘s TV advertisement.

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Recently, Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines said that “having different fleet allows them to run more efficiently”

There fleet differences (from my earlier post) –
DeltaBoeing 737, Boeing 757, Boeing 767, Boeing 777, MD-88, MD-90
NorthwestAirbus A319, Airbus A320, Airbus A330, Boeing 747, Boeing 757, Boeing 787 (in 2009), MD DC-9

Earlier, during the US Airways + Delta merger talks, then Delta CEO Gerald Grinstein told lawmakers, “You can screw up a lot of things in the airline industry, but you have to have fleet simplification”

Personally, I think the following are the advantages and disadvantages
Advantages (only one I can think of) –

  • If you have inspection problem with FAA for one fleet, you don’t have to cancel almost all of your flights 🙂

Disadvantages –

  • Training both cockpit/ground crew to serve different airplanes (hence huge training costs)
  • Every fleet can have different turn times, different boarding policies, different bag unloading policies, etc hence a total chaos.
  • Maintenance on different fleet means training people on different aircrafts
  • Overall, all problems tend to multiply with each additional fleet.
  • Unions might have problems for pilots on one side flying other planes and vice versa.

So, all I can say is Bon Chance on the fleet merger!!!


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There are a lot of people who make an airline “fly”, but probably the most important ones are the Pilots. No matter how anyone would debate on the the current technology, we all trust our lives to the pilots when we are in an aircraft. There is no airline in the world that can fly (literally) without its pilot.

Pilots and Unions
We all might have heard, pilots of almost all commercial airlines belong to some union.

Pilots and Seniority
Seniority is the most important thing for a pilot. It “determines the planes pilots fly, the schedule they fly, their base, the side of the cockpit they seat, their pay and other work conditions”.


Delta and Northwest Merger

Most of the mergers I have seen or read about, one of the pilot union seem to get more than the other’s union (depends on which airline has a bigger say or part in the “merger”). The seniority issue gets a little more complicated due its importance to a Pilot’s life after the merger.

Currently, Delta pilots might have a lot more incentives for the merger than Northwest (all from here) –
Delta Pilots get –

  • 3.5% equity in the merged carrier
  • 17% pay hike over the next four years
  • Higher contribution to their 401k pension plan
  • No furlough for the first 2 years after the deal closes

Northwest Pilots get –

  • No agreement, so no guaranteed stake, pay rise, etc.

The above looks one sided, but you have to understand, Delta pilots union agreed to the terms and support the merger whereas Northwest Pilots’ union did not.

Seniority issue has not been addressed yet and most likely will head to arbitration. If the merger goes through, most likely for a long time you will see the Northwest crew flying Northwest planes and Delta crew flying Delta planes.

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