Northwest Historical Timeline

Though the Decades

Northwest's history, decade by decade. Select the decade you're interested in.


1988 - Northwest bans smoking on all North American flights, the first major U.S. airline to do so.

1988 - Northwest is the first airline to test seatback screens offering personal video programming. 

1989 - Northwest is the first airline to fly the Boeing 747-400.


October 1: Republic Airlines acquires Hughes Airwest for $38.5 million, adding 53 cities to the Republic system (primarily in the western and southwestern United States), making the airline a truly national carrier serving almost 200 cities—more than any other U.S. airline. Republic's employee ranks swell from 8,982 to 14,709.

Service expands to Shannon, Ireland; Oslo, Norway; London, England; and Hamburg, Germany.



Houston and Los Angeles are added to Northwest's international Boeing 747 freighter service network.

Northwest begins service to Guam, Mariana Islands.



Passenger service expands to Omaha, Kansas City, Wichita, Dallas-Ft. Worth, San Diego, Grand Rapids (Michigan) and West Palm Beach.

Atlanta and Oslo join the international cargo route system.



September 26: Steven G. Rothmeier is elected president and chief operating officer.

Service expands to Tucson, Arizona.

San Francisco becomes the sixth U.S. gateway to Asia with non-stop service to Tokyo.



March 15: Chief Executive Officer M. Joseph Lapensky is elected chairman of the board.

May 2: After a 35-year hiatus, Northwest resumes service to China with Seattle-Tokyo-Shanghai service.

May 21: Northwest shareholders approve the creation of NWA Inc., a Delaware corporation, as the holding company for Northwest Airlines.

December 1: Northwest and Mesaba Airlines announce a regional airline marketing partnership the first Northwest Airlink agreement.

Passenger service expands to Frankfurt and Dublin.

All-cargo Boeing 747 freighter service extends to Singapore.



January 1: Steven G. Rothmeier is named president and chief executive officer.

May 28: NWA Inc. purchases Mainline Travel, Inc. (MLT) of Minnetonka, Minnesota, an international tour operator.

Republic Express regional airline service begins, feeding passengers into the Republic system at Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Memphis.

In its last year as an independent entity, Republic employs 15,100 people serving a national network with a fleet of 168 DC-9's, 727's, 757's and Convair 580's.

Northwest adds its first Boeing 757 twin-jet.

Service expands to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.



January 23: Northwest announces an agreement with Republic Airlines for Northwest to acquire Republic for $884 million.

August 12: Steven G. Rothmeier is elected chairman of the board and CEO; John F. Horn is named president and chief operating officer.

October 1: Northwest completes the acquisition of Republic Airlines. Northwest's work force expands overnight from less than 17,000 to more than 33,000. Northwest becomes the dominant hub airline at Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Memphis. The following new destinations are added to the Northwest route system: Toronto, Nashville, New Orleans, Grand Cayman, Greenville/Spartanburg, Baltimore, Green Bay, Houston, Cincinnati and Birmingham.

October 14: Northwest Aerospace Training Corporation (NATCO) is formed.

October 29: Service expands to Cancun, Mexico.


April 6: Tokyo (Narita)—Bangkok service begins.

April 17: Detroit—Tokyo service begins.



January 28: Milwaukee becomes the fourth domestic hub.

March 7: Northwest Delta Vacations are introduced.

April 23: Northwest bans smoking on all North American flights, the first major U.S. airline to do so.

June 21: Northwest is the first airline to test Airvision, the first airborne video system with personal screens. Northwest offers seatback screens on 116 seats in Business Class (called Executive Class) and part of Economy Class in a Boeing 747, flying between Detroit and Tokyo.

August 9: Mesaba Aviation is selected as an Airlink carrier serving the Detroit hub.

September 21: Northwest Flight Operations begins tests of new Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS).

December 15: Northwest and Seattle-based Horizon Air announce a marketing agreement to coordinate flight schedules and offer code-share service in the Pacific Northwest.

New destinations this year include Amsterdam; Worcester, Massachusetts; Norfolk, Virginia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.



February 9: Northwest is launch customer of the world's largest commercial airliner, the Boeing 747-400. Although the aircraft is destined for transpacific service, the maiden revenue flight is from the Twin Cities to Phoenix.

April: Passenger service launched to Singapore.

June 1: Boeing 747-400 enters international service on the New York—Tokyo route.

June 19: NWA Inc. and Wings Holdings agree to the acquisition of NWA Inc. by Wings at a price of $121 per share, or approximately $3.5 billion. Wings Holdings is an investment group organized by Al Checchi and Gary Wilson, and includes KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Frederic V. Malek, Richard Blum Associates, Bankers Trust New York Corporation and other investors.

July 1:  Northwest flies its first high-technology Airbus A320 in revenue service.

August 4: The acquisition is completed and NWA Inc. becomes a privately held corporation for the first time since 1941.

September 28: Al Checchi elected chairman of NWA Inc.; Fred Malek is named president.

Service expands to Montego Bay, Jamaica and Saipan, Mariana Islands.