Northwest Airlines said Thursday it has raised prices on international flights and will freeze pilot hiring as fuel prices refuse to come...

Share story

MINNEAPOLIS — Northwest Airlines said Thursday it has raised prices on international flights and will freeze pilot hiring as fuel prices refuse to come down.

It also announced that it would do 5 percent less flying than it had planned this fall. Overall, it expects its flying in 2008 to be flat or down slightly compared with last year.

The nation’s fifth-largest airline said that it added fuel surcharges generally amounting to $10 or $20 each way for flights from North America to Europe, India, Japan and most other destinations in Asia. That brings the surcharges to between $115 and $155. The surcharge from Japan to North America will rise by $20 to $160 beginning May 1.

Northwest emerged from Chapter 11 protection on May 31 and like most other carriers it earned money in 2007 — $746 million in Northwest’s case, not counting bankruptcy items.

But the price of jet fuel has risen sharply this year, and the slowing economy has led airlines to fear that demand is about to drop.

Northwest President and Chief Executive Doug Steenland said that in recent months “the price of oil has risen dramatically to all-time highs and there is no reasonable basis to conclude that oil prices will materially decline anytime soon. These increased costs are significant and call for a strong response from us.”

The airline said it would try to save $100 million a year through “cost reductions, productivity improvements and revenue enhancements.” If reduced flying means it needs fewer workers, “every effort will be made to achieve these reductions through attrition.” It said it would not seek pay cuts.

Northwest had been adding pilots and flight attendants but said it has suspended those plans.

The Air Line Pilots Association called the moves “practical given the current economic environment.”

“While we are never happy about flight-schedule reductions, we understand the need for prudent economic decisions to be made in order to maintain the financial viability of Northwest Airlines,” the union said.