Northwest Airlines has announced a “20 Point Plan” to minimize service
disruptions and help provide the best possible customer experience
during the upcoming Thanksgiving and December holidays.NWA’s Holiday
Travel Reliability Program, now in effect, is the first of its kind
and a leader among the major U.S. airlines.
The “20 Point Plan” was developed by Northwest’s Task Force on
Holiday Travel Reliability. The plan provides new options and added
services for Northwest’s customers, including advance notice of
anticipated weather delays and more liberal rebooking policies for
customers whose travel plans are disrupted by inclement weather,
irregular operations involving air traffic delays and maintenance.
“When a service disruption occurs or the forecast calls for bad
weather, our Holiday Travel Reliability Program kicks in. Whenever
possible, we will notify our customers in advance and give them the
flexibility to adjust their holiday travel plans,” said Doug
Steenland, president and chief executive officer of Northwest
Airlines. “Our goal is to err on the side of the customer - to
communicate early and often and waive rebooking fees when bad weather
and service disruptions are on the horizon.”
Winter blizzards and adverse weather across the system have the
potential to impact reliable operations and disrupt travel plans. When
a service disruption is anticipated, or cancellations are necessary,
NWA has enhanced the ability of its customers to adjust travel plans
in the following ways:
1. Liberalized Exception Policy: When this policy is in effect,
NWA waives all change fees associated with re-accommodating customers
who have been impacted by weather delays, irregular operations, or a
mechanical situation and allows rebooking options for other NWA
2. Enhanced Event Notification: An Automated Messaging System
proactively advises customers (by telephone or email) of a flight
delay, irregular operation, or cancellation through a free service on
nwa.com called “My NWA Info.” Customers are encouraged to take
advantage of this service by providing the airline with email and
telephone contact information.
3. Automated Flight Rebooking (AFR): NWA’s computer software
systems have the ability to automatically process and rebook 150
customers in less than two minutes.
4. Frequent Airport Updates: If a flight is delayed or canceled
before boarding, customer service agents will promptly post the
information on the gate display monitors and make announcements at the
gate every 15 minutes on the status of the delay, or in the case of
the canceled flight, provide instructions to customers.
5. Rebook Hotline: NWA has a dedicated, toll-free number that
customers can call from an airport telephone, or their cell phones, to
obtain rebooking assistance from reservations agents. These calls take
precedence over other incoming customer calls.
6. Rebook Service Centers (located in Detroit and Minneapolis/St.
Paul hubs): These centers allow customers to print boarding passes for
their new flight once they have been rebooked by the AFR system.
7. Technology options in the airport: Airport Self Service Devices
give customers added convenient rebooking options.
8. Rebooking from home or the office: Customers can go online to
nwa.com in the “Manage My Reservations” section to reschedule flights
“Travel over the holidays can be challenging and we know, from
experience, that peak demand and unanticipated delays can stress the
system and our passengers,” said Steenland. “We encourage our
customers to sign up for our notification services and provide us with
a telephone number or email address, so we can let them know as
quickly as possible if they need to adjust their travel plans. This
allows us to provide better service to the customer and give them
added travel options.”
NWA Operational Reliability Enhancements
NWA’s “20 Point Plan” also provides for improved operational
reliability during inclement weather and irregular operations through
a variety of measures, including:
9. NWA’s Winter Operations Summit: This first annual operations
strategy session brought together station personnel, flight
operations, system operations control center (SOC) - along with
representatives from the FAA and several airport authorities. The
group will continue to establish and review best practices during
irregular operations and enhance safe winter operations.
10. Taxi-way Delays: If an aircraft is delayed due to weather or
air traffic issues during taxi-out for departure, and the delay
reaches three hours, the captain will coordinate with NWA operations
and initiate a plan for passengers to deplane. This is policy may be
modified at the discretion of the captain. For inbound planes that
have not reached the gate within one hour of landing, the pilot will
activate an “event recovery plan” intended to arrange for passengers
to deplane safely.
11. Frequent Crew Communications: During ground holds or taxi-way
delays, Northwest operations will communicate frequently with crew
members so they can provide ongoing updates to passengers
12. Fewer misconnects: The last two banks of flights, during peak
Holiday travel days in the Detroit Metro and Minneapolis/St. Paul
airports, have been pushed back up to 20 minutes to minimize the
potential for passenger misconnects.
13. Contingency planning: NWA has created a comprehensive
contingency plan for aircraft routing in the event that weather
conditions quickly deteriorate and diversions are necessary.
14. Added aircraft: NWA has set aside additional spare aircraft,
over and above the normal spares, to accommodate passengers affected
by service disruptions.
15. A new position of Vice President of Regional Operations has
been filled to enhance the coordination between Northwest’s mainline
operations and its regional carriers.
“The Northwest Holiday Travel Reliability program looks to
minimize the impact of schedule disruptions, to the extent we can plan
for them, by ensuring we have extra aircraft and crews available to
take care of our customers,” said Steenland.
NWA Employee Focus / Staffing Enhancements
In further anticipation of the peak Holiday travel season,
Northwest Airlines has also added staff to respond more quickly to the
customers’ needs. This includes:
16. Increased Pilot Staffing: NWA has increased overall reserve
pilot staffing by about 30 percent. The airline also allocated its
largest volume of reserve pilots during keys days surrounding
Thanksgiving and December holiday periods.
17. Increased Flight Attendant Staffing: NWA has created
significant flight attendant staffing surpluses during peak holiday
travel days, as compared to non-holiday months.
18. More Reservations Agents: The airline has increased its
capacity to answer customers’ phone calls by opening a new,
state-of-the-art reservations center based in Sioux City, Iowa, with
about 200 new reservations agents. NWA also hired and trained over 250
additional new-hires in its five pre-existing reservations centers.
19. Better Training: NWA’s nearly 2,000 reservations agents have
all had specialized training to handle irregular operations and
weather-related incidents in order to provide better service to its
Steenland added, “During uncontrollable weather events, safety is
always our first priority. With that in mind, we will proactively
cancel operations if needed to protect our passengers and crew
20. A “Holiday Incentive Program” will again be instituted for
employees working during the December holidays. This recognizes the
sacrifice that working during the holidays requires of NWA employees
and their families. NWA has offered similar holiday incentive programs
for more than a decade. The program has been praised by employees and
also helps the airline maintain appropriate staffing levels.
Sixteen of the 20 items included in NWA’s “20 Point” Holiday
Travel Reliability Plan will remain in effect as part of Northwest
Airlines’ “Customer First” Commitments. The only exceptions are
holiday specific and include delaying the last two daily banks of
flights by up to 20 minutes in Detroit and Minneapolis/St. Paul to
reduce misconnects; the added increases to pilot and flight attendant
staffing above normally anticipated reserve needs; and the Holiday
Incentive Program for employees.
Steenland concluded, “These proactive customer care measures will
not only improve the holiday travel experience, but most have also
become part of our standard operating procedures and Northwest’s
ongoing commitment to best-in-class customer care.”