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Northwest struggles with more cancellations

Northwest Airlines Corp. struggled again with end-of-the-month cancellations on Monday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Northwest Airlines Corp. struggled again with end-of-the-month cancellations on Monday.

By 4 p.m. CDT, Northwest had canceled 115 flights, according to the Web site

Northwest spokesman Roman Blahoski said the airline expected cancellations to drop slightly Monday compared with Sunday, when the carrier scrubbed 225 flights, according to FlightStats.

He said Northwest completed about 92 percent of its flights over the weekend — less on Sunday — and expected to complete about 92 percent on Monday as well. By comparison, Northwest said it completed about 98 percent of its flights during the first three weeks of July.

The airline once again blamed a surge in pilot sick calls, especially on narrowbody flights.

“We’re looking at pilot absenteeism, pilots not reporting for duty as scheduled,” Blahoski said.

Pilots have said the problem is that pilots are flying more tightly packed schedules than before. Northwest boosted the monthly cap on flying hours from 80 to 90 hours when it was in bankruptcy, and pilots have said that’s a more grueling schedule. And as the end of the month approaches, pilots can hit their hours ceiling more quickly than expected if weather delays cause them to fly more hours than planned.

“We’re very disappointed that the company is trying to blame us for what we see as quite obviously a lack of staffing,” said Monty Montgomery, a spokesman for the Northwest branch of the Air Line Pilots Association.

Northwest has recalled furloughed pilots and has said it expects to hire 200 to 250 pilots in the next year. However, furloughed pilots must be retrained before they can fly again. Northwest also reduced its August flying schedule by 4 percent and canceled a Detroit to Frankfurt flight beginning July 18.