Minneapolis International says goodbye to NWA, hello Deltaby Martin Moylan, Minnesota Public Radio
Twin Cities air travelers today saw the biggest changes so far in the merging of Northwest Airlines into Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines. The main terminal at the Twin Cities airport got a major makeover over the past few days as Delta erased most signs of Northwest.
Among travelers the change-over met with a mix of nostalgia, hope, indifference and satisfaction.
St. Paul, Minn. — Jim Haglund has been boarding Northwest planes at the Minneapolis Airport since 1958. He has more than 1.5 million frequent flier miles, and he's well aware of Delta's plans to absorb Northwest. Still, Haglund was taken aback when he walked into the Lindbergh Terminal to catch a flight earlier today.
"I walked in here this morning. It's hard to express my feelings," he said.
Just about everything that once said Northwest now says Delta: From baggage carts and the banks of flight monitors to the check-in stations and the circular lights over the concourse. All Northwest employees were in Delta uniforms.
It hit Haglund that a Twin Cities icon was getting much closer to fading into history.
"They've been around 83 years. Everyone used to complain about them a lot, but I always defended them," said Haglund. "I'd say they're the hometown airline. We can go anywhere in the world from here. They've meant so much to this community. They've always been identified with the Twin Cities area. To see this now, it's a real shock."
Haglund's sentiment was shared by other travelers, including Jena Kline, who was in town to visit family. She now lives in Hawaii, but she was raised in Minnesota and grew up flying with Northwest.
"Northwest has been around for so long. It's tough not to see it anymore: the red and the symbols and stuff," said Haglund.
Other travelers were less emotionally touched.
Josh Clausen of Minneapolis says he's really not going to miss Northwest.
"As long as the airline gets me to where I'm going, I don't really mind one way or the other," said Clausen.
Some travelers recalled the frequently bitter labor and political battles involving Northwest over the years.
Rick Hatcher of Burnsville recognizes some people will be sad to see Northwest go, but others will be glad it's departing the Twin Cities' scene.
"You know they weren't the best company either," said Hatcher.
Many travelers said Delta handled the make-over very well.
Jon Hess, who was on his way to Orlando with his wife and three children, praised Delta for making the day go smoothly.
"No confusion, Everything looked great," said Hess.
Delta helped travelers by including a small notes on its signs, noting that it still "serves Northwest."
Charlie Stone of Eden Prairie said navigating the airport was a breeze.
"Well, I was looking for the signs for Northwest, and I had to realize, whoops, they're no longer that name so, I had to identify where the Delta check-in was and so on. Very easy transition," said Stone.
Ann Richards of Richfield believes most Minnesotans are going to remember Northwest in a positive way. Afterall, Northwest has carried far more Minnesotans than any other airline has.
"I'm sure in the long run, Minnesota will always remember Northwest. I will remember Northwest, it was the first airline I ever flew on when I was kid. When it was Northwest Orient," said Richards.
Delta says it's spending about $500 million overall to combine Northwest and Delta, creating the world's biggest airline.
Tim Mapes, Delta's Senior Vice President for Marketing, says people may not believe it, but memories of Northwest will fade fast.
"Customers are ready for this. We've been talking about it for nearly a year. I don't think it will be very long before people understand the benefits of the new Delta and forget about the Northwest brand as they've known it," said Mapes.
By the end of next year there will be few - if any - signs of Northwest left anywhere. All Northwest planes will be repainted in Delta colors. The big hangars at the Twin Cities airport will also be branded as Delta buildings. The airlines will have a common Web site, common frequent flier program and more. And the red tail will finally fade to blue.