Northwest Airlines (NWA) no longer exists as far as I'm concerned. Since it's been bought over by Delta (which is one of the few airlines I hate) I no longer fly on it! For as long as a decade, NWA brought me across the world and contributed quite a great deal to my stepping foot on the 7 continents in the world! So, I'm quite grateful to this airline, for its generosity in the frequent flyer program (I nearly hit a million miles on this airline alone; would have if I traveled on a single airline but I do believe that variety is the spice of life and hence, I've been on more than 50 airlines in the world!) as well as some very memorable moments.
I know NWA sucks for many Americans. Having said that, NWA aircrafts that ply between U.S. and Asia are actually a lot newer and bigger than those that fly domestically. In most cases, it's a Boeing 767 or Airbus 330 aircrafts. Those are some of the newest in Northwest's fleet of aircrafts. Although by that I don't mean brand new like those from Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific. Nonetheless, it would do. What I really liked about it was when I began to reach its Gold & Platinum frequent flyer status. That entitled me to get seats right up at the front and also the first few to eat! Nothing different from the rest of the airlines. But, what's great about NWA back then was it was ultra easy to book the tickets online. Its website was one of the most user friendly around. The process was short and simple. Redeeming award tickets were just as simple! That was then. Now, I no longer even go anywhere near it online!
In addition, the gold elite or platinum elite members get free upgrade to first class on NWA when connecting within U.S.A.! Hence, I never complain about how it sucks domestically ;-)
The other attraction about NWA to me was its must-stop hub at Narita. Because of it, I was transiting in Narita Airport (Tokyo) a great deal. That was real fun, my 2nd most favorite airport in the world! Shopping in Narita is a culture. One simply couldn't escape the Japanese culture when in Narita. If you've a long layover you can even get out of the airport to visit a temple nearby! Otherwise, the Narita airport is like a huge mall with a great many choices of restaurants where you can indulge in sushi, sashimi, soba and udon to your heart's content. If not, you might also have lots of fun shopping for those cute souvenirs or cakes and sweets of all kinds and colors. I simply love getting "lost" in Narita! NWA never fails to transit here, so that was a great deal of fun!
Before I forget, NWA has excellent lounges in Narita as well. I think it has 2 (if not 3) lounges at this airport. The two of them I had been to had great snacks and beers on the tap! I love the NWA lounges here. Imagine getting iMac in the lounge for surfing online; that was one hell of a perk! I didn't make a count but there were enough of iMac there for its passengers!
These are just some of the perks for being a frequent flyer on this airline. What about when things go wrong, you say? Like flight delays, etc... Now, I've something to share which I think even Singapore Airlines pale in comparison when it comes to retaining customers' loyalty.
This is a very personal experience. It is my experience although I'm not sure if it's only specific to a few of us. Afterall, I almost did become a million miles member ;-) Here is the whole story...
Back then a few years ago, I don't really remember which year, probably sometime around 2002 to 2005, I had chalked up a great deal of mileage points to be able to travel for free quite a bit within the U.S. What I did was to redeem an award ticket from San Francisco (SFO) to Toronto (YYZ). The flight as most of you who traveled on NWA would know, entails a stop in Minneapolis or Detroit Airport, Northwest hubs. The flight was on its way to Toronto and I was due to arrive around 7 pm local time. What happened was during the midst of the flight, we were told we couldn't land in Minneapolis due to some typhoon and bad stormy weather. The airport in Minneapolis was shut down before we were due to arrive! So, the pilot landed our big plane in some hidden corner, a place I was told later, it's Fargo! Good grief! Do you know where Fargo is? North Dakota! So, that's how I made it to North Dakota (for those who knew my travel map & how crazed I was about to cover 1/2 the states of United States ;-)). Well, nothing bad as far as I'm concerned. Simply a few hours of delays and I figured we'll get there eventually. I had lots of books and food with me, no problem! :-)
And, here's a tip for those of you who travel frequently. Always bring enough to entertain yourself and to keep your stomach full! It's now a common sight for passengers to bring food onboard since the cutting cost strategy had left lots of people hungry on the plane! Back then though, it's not a common thing to do. The poor lady who sat next to me was without food & entertainment! It was a few hours of hell for a lot of people on that flight. The nightmare is only beginning... What happened was that now that we were in Fargo, you'd think there is an airport there, isn't it? Right, there was & is. The only problem was our aircraft was a big one and this teeny tiny airport has no stairs that will reach the height of this plane!!! Now what?! Stuck inside the plane for at least 5 hours! And the plane ran out of food and water! Imagine what a nightmare that was for parents with kids!
As for me I was just finishing a novel. And then the flight took off again. By then, when we finally arrived in Minneapolis, the airport was reopened again. Safe flight. But, it's already midnight! We need to find a place to stay since we all missed our connections! No planes were taking off in the middle of the night. And, can you believe it, most of the shops and restaurants in that airport were already closed! Not to mention all the hotels in the airport areas were full due to all those passengers who missed their flights but arrived earlier than us. The only alternative was to go into town and since I had never been in town, I didn't want to take the risk as I'm not sure how safe it was to go alone in the middle of the night in a city I had never been to!!! Plus, my earliest connecting flight was 6 am the next morning, so there really is no point in checking into a hotel with less than 4 hours sleep! Bad luck, I thought. I was on an award ticket, the airline is not going to compensate me due to weather problems. Neither will my travel insurance company! That literally means I've to pay to get into town for a nap in a hotel? Forget it! So, I stayed put at the airport. I was beat then though, after having been on a 10+ hours flight from Asia to San Francisco before that fateful flight. By then, I had been on the air for some 20 hours and then another 6 to 7 hours before the next flight? I was seeing stars when I finally reached Toronto the next day!
Anyhow, I was in the air a lot in those days and that was one of the worst delays I had. I thought, considering the probabilities it's not too bad as it is. I went on to enjoy my stay in Toronto and flew home without much ado. Well, when I reached Singapore, that was home back then, imagine my surprise! There in the whole pile of mails in my mailbox was a letter from Northwest apologizing for the unpleasant circumstance and .... here it goes ... in lieu of my loyalty to the airline, NWA has decided to compensate! And do you know what compensation that is? It's a return ticket to anywhere in the world! That was how NWA seals the deal! Now, remember, I was on an award ticket! I was not paying for that flight from San Francisco. It has no obligation to compensate since it was due to bad weather to begin with. No insurance policy would compensate you either. But, in this case, NWA compensated me!!! As far as I'm concerned, I would have been a customer for life if it had not been taken over by that dreadful Delta Airlines which lost my parents' baggage in JFK Airport & yet never even compensated them a cent!!!
What can I say other than I'm sorry to hear that the airline is now operating under the umbrella of Delta! They have certainly lost quite a few loyal customers because of that!
In any case, I want to applaud Northwest for taking right step in customer service and relations. It is very refreshing and a lot more effective in retaining customer's loyalty the way it handled the situation than to pay hefty sums to market the airline through huge advertising expense! When it comes to compensating and keeping its customers' loyalties, it is certainly a premier airline which beats Singapore Airlines.At about the same time when Northwest was doing the right thing, Singapore Airlines only gave its passengers telephone cards for calling family when they were delayed for hours at the Changi Airport without a clue as to how long the flight would be delayed to begin with! And it was a flight to New York, for goodness sake! My poor sister! Just a mere telephone card! What a bully!!!
As of 2006, Northwest was the world's sixth largest airline in terms of domestic and international scheduled passenger miles flown and the U.S.'s sixth largest airline in terms of domestic passenger miles flown. In addition to operating one of the largest domestic route networks in the U.S., Northwest carries more passengers across the Pacific Ocean (5.1 million in 2004) than any other U.S. carrier, and carries more domestic air cargo than any other American passenger airline. It is the only U.S. combination carrier (passenger and cargo service) operating dedicated Boeing 747 freighters. The airline, along with its then-parent company, Northwest Airlines ...