Several Northwest Airlines competitors are reporting a small increase in business since the carrier's mechanics went on strike last week...

Share story

MINNEAPOLIS — Several Northwest Airlines competitors are reporting a small increase in business since the carrier’s mechanics went on strike last week.

Yet during a summer travel season with robust passenger loads, none of the rivals say they expect substantial extra business — at least in the short term.

“Certainly we have seen some increase, but it’s pretty minimal,” said Wendy Blackshaw, a spokeswoman for Sun Country Airlines, which flies to 31 cities from its Minneapolis hub.

United Airlines has also seen a small but not statistically significant bump since Northwest mechanics went on strike Saturday, said Robin Urbanski, a spokeswoman for United Airlines.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

The strike continued yesterday with no talks scheduled between the Eagan, Minn.-based carrier and the union that represents its mechanics.

So far, Northwest has reported minimal cancellations of its flights, while reports have varied on the extent of delays. One airline-industry analyst said that unless Northwest can show improvements each week in minimizing cancellations and delays, customers will start finding alternatives.

“Right now people are willing to be patient — mainly because most of them already bought their tickets,” said Terry Trippler, who writes for Cheapseats.com. “But if this drags on, it’s hard for me to see people pushing each other out of the way to book advance tickets on Northwest.”

The Aircraft Maintenance Fraternal Association, which represents striking mechanics, cleaners and custodians, has predicted that it would take seven to 10 days before Northwest’s system starts to bog down because of unmet maintenance needs. Mechanical work is being done by replacement workers and licensed Northwest managers.

Whether that happens is key to whether Northwest retains customers, Trippler predicted. “I think next week is going to be make or break,” he said.

American Airlines said it is seeing booking numbers into the fall that are better than last year — but they aren’t attributing it to the Northwest strike.

“It’s hard to track people’s reasoning,” spokesman Tim Smith said. “It’s not like we’re saying, ‘Hello, customer, are you booking with us today because you don’t want to fly with Northwest?’ “

A spokeswoman for Delta Air Lines said the carrier hasn’t detected a change in booking since the strike started.

Some airlines, including United and Delta, are honoring Northwest tickets for passengers who are affected by the strike.

Trippler said the surest way for Northwest to lose passengers would be any indication of safety problems on its flights. So far there’s been none, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.