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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 19, 2001

Northwest Airlines cuts 50 Hawai'i positions

By John Duchemin
Advertiser Staff Writer

Northwest Airlines will close its 50-employee Honolulu reservations center Sept. 18 as part of a larger nationwide cost-cutting effort by the airline.

Reservations center employees in Honolulu are being given two choices: Take a job at one of Northwest's other reservations centers or be laid off, according to a letter to workers from Susan B. Edberg, Northwest vice president of reservations sales and services.

Mary Beth Schubert, a Northwest spokeswoman in Minneapolis, confirmed the accuracy of the letter yesterday and said a company executive is in Honolulu to tell employees. She would not comment further.

The fourth-biggest U.S. carrier has struggled this year, and projects a loss of $50 million to $75 million for the quarter ended June 30. Richard Anderson, chief executive officer for the Eagan, Minn.-based airline, said in late June that job cuts are inevitable.

Northwest is scheduled to announce its second-quarter earnings today, and is expected to disclose a series of cost-cutting measures designed to help save more than $200 million this year.

Most of the company's Honolulu operations are being affected by the cost-cutting measures, said Ashley McNeely, representative for Teamsters Local 2000, the labor union for 416 Honolulu-based Northwest flight attendants.

Northwest earlier this week notified the state of Hawai'i that it plans to close its Honolulu base Oct. 31 for pilots flying McDonnell Douglas DC-10 jets. In the filing with the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, the airline said about 180 pilots will be affected when the DC-10 base shuts down permanently.

Last week, the airline asked Honolulu flight attendants to take voluntary leaves of absence. The company plans to lay off flight attendants if too few employees volunteer for leaves, McNeely said.

Northwest also has cut jobs among its Honolulu airport and inflight support staff, laying off at least one employee, McNeely said.

The Honolulu reservations center is one of nine in the Northwest system. Honolulu employees will be allowed to transfer to any other center except the company's New York City office, Edberg's letter said.

Northwest is not alone in its problems. Many of the nation's major airlines are losing money, and blame a sharp drop in business travel and higher fuel costs. Delta Airlines has frozen hiring, United Airlines and US Airways have reduced growth targets, and the top nine carriers are projected to lose more than $350 million in second-quarter 2001.