Northwest Airlines is a major airline, offering air travel in United States. It is based in Eagan, Minnesota near Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, one of the largest business airports in the U.S. The main hubs of the airline are Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, and Memphis International Airport. Northwest Airlines also maintains hubs in Asia and operates flights from Narita International Airport, near Tokyo. The transatlantic flights are operated in cooperation with KLM, from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.
Northwest operates its regional flights under the name of Northwest Airlink by Mesaba Airlines, Pinnacle Airlines, and Compass Airlines. It had been announced in April 2008 that Northwest will merge with Delta Air Lines and create the largest commercial airline of the world. The merged airline will be based in Atlanta and will have a total fleet of 786 aircraft. Under this agreement Delta will have a 3.5 percent equity stake in the new airline. The Northwest brand is reported to retire by the end of 2010,.
Northwest Airlines was established on September 1, 1926 by Colonel Lewis Brittin. It was initially named Northwest Airways and mostly focused on delivering mails for the U.S. Post Office Department. It was in the year 1927 that Northwest began to fly passengers. Its first international flight took off to Winnipeg, Canada.
With the Second World War on, Northwest contributed to the war effort by flying military personnel and equipment from United States to Alaska. The airline is also credited with scouting the Great Circle route in 1931, when it sponsored Charles and Anne Lindbergh on a flight to Japan. The flight flied through Alaska, saving about 2000 miles on a New York to Tokyo route.
In 1938, Northwest developed the first practical aviation oxygen mask, making possible high-altitude flying over the Rocky Mountains. The aairline expanded globally on August 1, 1949, when it received its first double-deck Boeing 377 Stratocruisers, which reduced the flight time and established competitive service standards. In 1955, it became the first airline to operate without government subsidy on Trans-Pacific and United States-Alaska routes. In 1957, the airline pioneered the first clear-air turbulence forecasting system. It also offered the shortest flying time on routes to Asia, with its Douglas Dc-8 aircrafts.
In 1993, Northwest and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines formed a unique alliance, offering convenient and hassle free service between the United States and cities around the world. On May 1, 1996, Northwest Airlines began the first nonstop service from the US to China, on the Detroit-Beijing route, followed by the Nonstop Detroit-Shanghai service (in April 2000). In 1998, Northwest and Continental Airlines announced an alliance delivering a wider range of benefits to millions of air travelers in the Americas, Asia and Europe. It enjoyed profits throughout late 1990s and early 2000s; Northwest has focused on improving technology, to increase convenience and reduce costs.
Northwest and its travel partners fly to more than 900 cities, in more than 160 countries, on six continents. Northwest and Northwest Airlink together operate approximately 1,200 daily departures, with hubs in Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Memphis, Tokyo and Amsterdam. In the North American region, Northwest Airlines flies to US, Bermuda, Canada, and Mexico, while it covers Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Jamaica and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean. It also schedules flights to Guam and Northern Mariana Islands in Oceania.
In Asia, Northwest flies to India, Japan, China, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. It also serves more Canadian cities than any other airline of the US, covering Calgary, Edmonton, Kitchener/Waterloo, London (ON), Montreal Trudeau, Ottawa, Quebec City, Regina, Saskatoon, Thunder Bay, Toronto Pearson, Vancouver, and Winnipeg. Seasonal services are offered to smaller Canadian cities. In India, Northwest Airlines flies to Delhi and Mumbai.
Northwest Airlines operates with a fleet of 306 aircrafts, comprising of Airbus A319-100, Airbus A320-200, Airbus A330-200, Airbus A330-300, Boeing 747-400, Boeing 757-200, Boeing 757-300, Boeing 787-8, McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30, McDonnell Douglas DC-9-40 and McDonnell Douglas DC-9-50. It has also place order for 75 aircrafts, with delivery dates in future.
In 2006, Northwest Airlines claimed the distinction of being the sixth largest airline in the world, in terms of domestic and international scheduled passenger miles flown. Apart from that, it was the sixth largest airline in USA, in terms of domestic passenger miles flown. It operates one of the largest domestic route networks in the United States. At the same time, Northwest Airlines carries more domestic air cargo than any other American passenger airline. It is the only U.S. combination carrier (passenger and cargo service) that has dedicated Boeing 747 freighters.