Northwest Airlines Northwest Airlines

Northwest Airlines has been a symbol of reliable and stable air company in the United States since 1926. Northwest Airlines is found in Minnesota, and quickly become one of the major airlines in the country. The company has been an important factor in the Minnesota economy since its start at what is now the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport.

Early History

The airline was founded in 1926 by Colonel Lewis Brittin. Northwest Airlines started as a mail carrying service from the Twin Cities to Chicago, with open-air cockpit planes. One ear later, the airline made its its first passenger flight to Chicago, stopping in Madison, LaCrosse and Milwaukee along the way. In 1947, Northwest began flights from Minneapolis to Tokyo, Japan. With this successful expansion, the airline took on a new name, Northwest Orient Airlines.

Northwest's Times of Trial

Northwest was a major player in the airline industry for many years and instituted many innovations. It was the first airline to forbid smoking on flights. The 1980s and 1990s were hard years for the company, and it went through difficult times. In 1986, Northwest purchased a regional competitor named Republican Airlines. Republic had hubs in Detroit, Michigan and Minneapolis. It was hoped that these routes would be feeder routes for the Northwest scheduling. Unfortunately, the merger led Northwest into a cycle of debt that was difficult to overcome in the economic conditions that existed during that time. Northwest Airlines faced laso a number of labor problems. A number of incidents of pilots flying under the influence came to media attention, which undermined the company's image with the public. In addition, United Airlines began a phase of expansion into the Pacific market that Northwest was unable to match. The attack on September 11, 2001 created an additional downward slide for the airline industry in general. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2005 and emerged in 2007.


In addition to its Asian presence with the Tokyo hub, Northwest went into a joint venture with KLM to provide service to many European, Asian and African routes. It began service to Copenhagen, Oslo, Glasgow, Rome and Milan. It also ventured into routes to Australia, Beijing and Shanghai. Northwest also offered service to more Canadian cities that any other U.S. airline.

The Delta Merger

In 2008, Delta airlines completed a long-negotiated merger with Northwest Airlines. The complex negotiations over working rules, flying schedules, maintenance requirements and computer technology began to take place. These issues took a considerable amount of time and were not without difficulties. Negotiations were protracted and continued over a number of years. Even afterward, Northwest retained its own name for several years. In 2010, the two airlines began flying under the single Delta name.

After the Merger

The Northwest fleet of planes, employees and pilots now operate under the Delta Airlines banner. The acquisition of Northwest's assets has allowed Delta to serve many more customers with many different flight routes around the world. However, the loss Northwest's legacy to Minnesota is still felt by many in the state.