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NWA already using Champion Airlines on some routes


Don't try this at home
Oct 27, 2004
Total Time
Union pilots filed a grievance against Northwest Airlines on Wednesday after the carrier used Champion Air to fly a scheduled Northwest flight from Detroit to Dallas-Fort Worth and back.

Northwest has said it could use Champion Air planes and pilots as part of a contingency plan if its mechanics go on strike next week.

Will Holman, spokesman for the Northwest chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association, called it "a clear violation" of the pilots' contract at Northwest. He said Mark McClain, chairman of the Northwest pilots union, contacted Northwest Airlines Corp. CEO Doug Steenland and "told him to cease and desist from further violations of our contract."

The union's grievance was filed with Northwest officials.

ALPA represents pilots at both Northwest and Champion, a charter carrier. "We have a good relationship with Champion pilots. Our fight is with management, not Champion pilots," Holman said.

In a statement, Northwest said: "We have activated a portion of our contingency plan due to an abnormally high level of aircraft that are currently out of service. The use of Champion Airlines to fly a very limited number of flights is part of our commitment to serve our customers."

Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch would not confirm details or comment beyond the statement, except to say Northwest is discussing the matter with its pilots union.

Both Northwest and Bloomington-based Champion have said Champion could be doing some flying for Northwest if mechanics go on strike after 12:01 a.m. EDT on Aug. 20.

The pilots won't make a decision on whether to support a mechanics strike until after a strike is declared, because they don't want to influence negotiations, Holman said.

Northwest pilots have already taken cuts that would save the airline $300 million a year. The pilots have publicly called on mechanics to also make concessions.

Northwest has said it wants a total of $1.1 billion in annual savings, including $176 million from mechanics. The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association has offered temporary cuts it says would add up to $143 million a year, a number Northwest disputes.

In a letter Wednesday to ALPA pilots, McClain, chairman of the Northwest pilots union, said Champion pilots cannot legally refuse an assignment to fly Northwest planes. Champion pilots who do so could be disciplined, he said.

"We cannot and do not expect them to put themselves individually at risk by taking such action on our behalf," McClain wrote.

Northwest, the nation's fourth-largest airline, has said it plans to maintain a full schedule if mechanics strike. Mediated talks are set to resume Monday in Washington after breaking off last week.