Northwest Airlines Reaches Tentative Agreement With Flight Attendants

Northwest Airlines Corp. reached a tentative agreement with flight attendants on Monday, a union official said. The news came on the same day Northwest could have imposed a new contract that had drawn strike threats.

Sean Fivecoat, the secretary-treasurer for the Northwest branch of theAssociation of Flight Attendants, said negotiators made the agreement around 9:20 a.m. EDT after bargaining all night. He said the deal includes a provision that it come to a vote by the rank-and-file quickly. He declined to discuss any details of the agreement.

Northwest had no immediate comment, spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch said.

The deal comes on the day set by a bankruptcy judge for Northwest to be free to impose a contract that 80 percent of flight attendants had rejected last month. The union had threatened to strike if that happened, putting the financially precarious airline in even more danger.

"It was down to the wire, and we made some improvements, and we just hope they're good enough," Fivecoat said.

Northwest filed for bankruptcy protection in September, and negotiated in earnest with all its unions as it tried to save $1.4 billion a year in labor expenses.

That target included $195 million in savings from flight attendants, through wage cuts and work rule changes. Flight attendants were the last union at Northwest without a new contract.

Northwest got the dollar savings it was looking for from all its other unions, and labor experts had predicted Northwest would not back down on its demand from flight attendants, either.

The agreement was made with a union that has only been on the property since July 6, when flight attendants dropped their old union and switched to the AFA.

Northwest has new contracts in place with all its other unions, although the pacts with pilots and ramp workers and ticket agents are on hold until the new flight attendant contract takes effect.