A Northwest Airlines Airbus A320 demonstrating the airline's colors
Northwest Airlines was a major U.S. airline which existed from 1926 until 2010, when it merged with Delta Air Lines. At the time of the merger it had a total of 320 aircraft with seven on order. It was also the last U.S. airline to have a dedicated cargo fleet and routes.
Northwest, unlike Delta, operated a mixed fleet of Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, and Airbus aircraft. The Boeing 757 was the only type common to the pre-merger fleets of both Delta and Northwest. The Northwest fleet was integrated into Delta's fleet on December 31, 2009.
As part of a major fleet renewal program, Northwest introduced a simplified new paint scheme and logo in 2003. The airline replaced its McDonnell Douglas DC-10 airliners with the Airbus A330. Its first Airbus A330-300, used initially for European flights, arrived on August 6, 2003. Northwest also flew the longer ranged and slightly shorter A330-200 on some trans-Pacific flights, within the Orient, and on some trans-Atlantic routes. The majority of Northwest Airlines' flights between North America and Europe were flown in Airbus A330s. (Northwest became the largest owner and flier of A330s in the world.) Northwest Airlines also possessed the youngest trans-Atlantic fleet of any North American or European airline. Northwest Airlines also began flying reconfigured Boeing 757–200 airliners on some of its European flights carrying fewer passengers. Northwest was one of only two passenger airlines in the United States to fly the Boeing 747-400, with the only other one being United Airlines. (There are several cargo airlines in the United States flying the Boeing 747)
Northwest was looking for manufacturers to discuss the replacement of their 100, 110 and 125 seat McDonnell Douglas DC-9 aircraft, with an average age of 35 years.
In January 2008, Northwest advised its pilots that the airline planned to cut its fleet of 92 DC-9s to 68 by the end of 2008. Northwest stated that pilot jobs will not be reduced, as they would hire approximately 200–250 pilots by the end of 2008. On April 23, 2008, due to soaring fuel costs from $1.85 in the first quarter of 2007 to $2.77 in the first quarter of 2008, Northwest announced that an additional 15 to 20 aircraft would be removed from its fleet by the end of 2009. The grounded aircraft included ten or so DC-9s, with the balance of the 15 to 20 being a mix of 10 757s and 4 A320s.
The airline's average fleet age was 18.5 years by the end of 2009. The Boeing customer code for Northwest Airlines was 7x7-x51 (i.e. 747-451). The Northwest Airlines fleet consisted of the following aircraft as of August 2009:
As of 2006, NWA Cargo was the largest cargo carrier among U.S. combination passenger and cargo airlines. NWA Cargo’s fleet of 15 dedicated Boeing 747 freighter aircraft flew from key cities throughout the United States and Asia and connected the carrier’s cargo hub in Anchorage, Alaska (Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport), facilitating the quick transfer of cargo between large cities on both sides of the Pacific. NWA Cargo also transported freight aboard the passenger fleet of Northwest Airlines to more than 250 cities worldwide.
As of early 2008, NWA's largest cargo client was DHL International. In December 2007, NWA announced that DHL International would terminate its cargo agreement with the airline effective late 2008. According to NWA Chief Financial Officer Dave Davis, the loss of its largest cargo client would bring significant changes to the division.
NWA Cargo served airports and routes not served by the passenger operation — the last U.S. carrier to maintain a separate fleet and route network exclusively for cargo. Such cargo-only cities on NWA's route map included Wilmington, Ohio, and cargo only routes included Chicago, Illinois to Anchorage, Alaska.
On April 21, 2009, Delta announced they were grounding 14 of their Boeing 747-200 freighter aircraft on December 31, 2009. The last flight of a dedicated cargo aircraft was December 26, 2009.