MINNEAPOLIS -- Northwest Airlines plans to cut about 4,900 jobs because of the war in Iraq, the airline said Friday.
Northwest said it was taking the move as it reduces its systemwide flight schedule by about 12 percent and idles 20 planes.
"The carrier is taking this action because of a drop in passenger demand due to both the threat of and now the commencement of hostilities with Iraq," the airline said in a statement. "As world events unfold, Northwest will continue to monitor passenger demand to determine whether additional actions are necessary."
The cuts include 2,000 mechanics, 1,400 flight attendants, 630 baggage handlers and customer service agents, 250 pilots, 125 cleaners, 300 management and 150 clerical positions, and 40 stock clerks, said Paul Volker, legislative officer for the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association Local 33.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Minnesota will take the biggest hit. While he didn't have an exact figure, he said he thought it would be about 3,700 jobs. Northwest spokeswoman Mary Stanik said she could not comment on that number or provide a city-by-city breakdown, but said that a figure of 158 cuts for the Duluth maintenance base cited by U.S. Rep. James Oberstar "can stand as fact."
Northwest's largest operations outside Minnesota are in Detroit and Memphis, Tenn.
Earlier last week, Continental Airlines said it will cut its work force by about 1,200 people by the end of the year to save $500 million. More layoffs are planned if war with Iraq is prolonged and air travel remains soft.
American Airlines, the world's No. 1 carrier, said Thursday it will cut international flights by 6 percent in April to meet a downturn in travel bookings due to the war in Iraq and could make additional reductions if traffic remains slow.
Northwest said it would use layoffs, attrition, voluntary leaves and leave open positions unfilled. A relief package including pay, medical coverage and flight privileges will be offered to those affected, the airline said.
Northwest had already laid off about 12,000 employees due to the slump in the airline industry.
"Clearly, the last two years have been a difficult and painful period for our employees," chief executive Richard Anderson said. "Due to the weak demand for business travel which emerged in March, 2001, the subsequent impact of the terrorist attacks on the United States in September of that year, and now, armed conflict with Iraq, we have been forced to reduce our work force by some 17,000 employee positions."
Anderson apologized to passengers for the inconvenience.
Northwest said it was contacting affected customers. They can also check the status of their reservations at the airline's web site -- http://www.nwa.com -- or by calling its reservations line at 1-800-225-2525, or through their travel agents. Schedule changes will be displayed in all reservation systems by March 29, it said.
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