Loyal Northwest Airlines passengers might want to pay close attention to their travel plans after the carrier announced plans to further cut back its domestic flight capacity.
Northwest is trimming capacity by an additional 1 percent in August to reduce the number of hours pilots must fly and prevent another surge in flight cancellations like that experienced at the end of June. The Eagan-based carrier, which canceled more than 1,000 flights in the last week of June, announced earlier that it would cut its August capacity by 3 percent.
On Tuesday, Northwest canceled 43 flights, according to data on FlightStats.com. By early-evening on Wednesday, the carrier had canceled 41 flights.
By comparison, American Airlines canceled 15 flights on Tuesday, Delta canceled 13 flights and US Airways canceled 10. United Airlines, meanwhile, grounded 44 flights.
Northwest Airlines Chief Executive Doug Steenland said in a letter to employees that domestic pilots will fly a maximum of 86 hours next month, compared with 88 or 90 hours in June.
As of Aug. 1, Steenland said all furloughed pilots who want to return to Northwest will have a date scheduled for retraining.
“Our training facility for recalled pilots is operating at capacity,” he wrote. “The recall activity, coupled with the reduced schedule, has produced some of the highest numbers of reserve pilots in recent history.”
Once all eligible pilots have been recalled, Steenland said Northwest will begin hiring new pilots.
Northwest also is changing the way trips are made to and from large cities on the East Coast to minimize impact of weather and air traffic congestion, he said. And the carrier is using spare widebody planes normally used for international flights to serve some domestic routes.
The letter followed an increase in cancellations last weekend, when Northwest said 51 mainline flights were canceled on Saturday and another 58 on Sunday. Steenland said 36 of the cancellations were related to planes being pulled out of service for maintenance.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.