Northwest Historical Timeline

Though the Decades

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


1991 - Northwest and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines launch the world's first airline alliance, with joint, twice-weekly flights between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Amsterdam.

1997 - Northwest is the first major airline to deploy compact self-service kiosks for the convenience of customers using electronic ticketing


January 30: Flight attendant Connie Walker retires at age 70 after 42 years with the airline. At the time of her retirement Ms. Walker is the oldest flight attendant ever to work for Northwest.

January 31: Northwest announces a $422 million program to upgrade service and build customer preference.

May 30: Honeywell and Northwest sign an aircraft satellite navigation development agreement with the Soviet government.

June 19: Frederick B. Rentschler named president and chief executive officer. Fred Malek becomes vice chairman.

September 19: On-time arrivals are guaranteed at 18 southern airports and backed by free round-trip tickets if flights are late.

November 9: John Dasburg, executive vice president—finance and administration, is named president and chief executive officer, succeeding Fred Rentschler, who resigned after five months in office.

December 10: Northwest signs an agreement with Hawaiian Airlines establishing a wide range of cooperative programs, including the transfer to Northwest of Hawaiian's route authority to Australia and a 25 percent ownership in Hawaiian Airlines.

During 1990, Northwest for the first time has the best on-time performance among the seven largest U.S. airlines, based on U.S. Department of Transportation consumer reports for the domestic operations of ten reporting U.S. airlines.



January 31: Gary L. Wilson is elected co-chairman.

April 1: Northwest, having acquired gates and slots formerly held by Eastern Airlines at Washington, DC (National), launches an expanded Washington "mini-hub" schedule.

April 2: Northwest and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines begin their first joint service, twice-weekly flights between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Amsterdam—launching the world's first airline alliance.

April 3: Northwest is first U.S. airline to fly over the Soviet Union since World War II.

April 19: New charter service to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, makes Northwest first U.S. airline to fly into Vietnam since the Vietnam war.

August 26: Code-sharing agreement with StatesWest Airlines begins.

October 22: Northwest pioneers the first satellite navigation and communication link.

December 12: A Minnesota legislative committee votes 11-7 in favor of an incentive financing package for Northwest to expand its maintenance operations in Minnesota.

Service expands to Bermuda and Sydney.

For the second consecutive year, Northwest has the best on-time performance among the seven largest U.S. airlines, based on U.S. Department of Transportation consumer reports for the domestic operations of ten reporting U.S. airlines.


April 10: Launches Northwest AirCares, an innovative giving program teaming with a new charity each quarter for fundraising and promotions.

April 23: Records highest-ever marks in a National Aviation Safety Inspection Program (NASIP) directed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

June 12: World's largest Airbus A320 fleet operator when receives its 32nd A320.

September 14: Northwest NOW! finishes 100-day campaign as most successful employee idea campaign in company history, yielding $87.6 million in annual cost savings and revenue enhancements.

September 16: Implements new Pacific schedule by retiming all flights through the Tokyo—Narita connecting complex. Narita layover times are reduced by as much as 50 percent.

October 8: Becomes first Western airline to operate scheduled flights through Russian air space.

Service expands to Nagoya and Fukuoka, Japan; Richmond; Oakland; and Albuquerque.

During the year, Northwest launches an overhaul of its domestic and international route system to focus on profitable flying and on its strategic assets. Most non-hub domestic routes (including "mini-hub" schedules at Washington and Milwaukee) are abandoned to shift resources into hub flying, and the Seoul hub is downsized. Australia flying was terminated to allow greater focus on Japan. Non-strategic transatlantic routes were suspended to allow more transatlantic flying from hubs, particularly Detroit and Amsterdam.

For the third consecutive year, Northwest has best on-time performance among the seven largest U.S. airlines, based on U.S. Department of Transportation consumer reports for the domestic operations of ten reporting U.S. airlines.


January 11: U.S. Department of Transportation approves Northwest/KLM commercial cooperation and integration agreement under a grant of antitrust immunity. KLM and Northwest now are free to join together in creating a unified global airline system, the first of its kind in the world.

January 20: Northwest and KLM announce first major steps toward integrating operations, including creation of a Seal of Partnership logo.

March 16: Northwest and KLM begin to expand code-share service to more than 30 Northwest destinations in North America and more than 30 KLM destinations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

April 13: Northwest and KLM coordinate their frequent flier plans, creating the most expansive free travel program in the airline industry.

August 6: Northwest completes a voluntary financial restructuring including a three-year wage reduction agreement with employees, an employee stock owner-ship program representing approximately 30% of Northwest Airlines Corporation, and a rescheduling of financial obligations to lenders and major vendors.

September 22: Northwest and KLM combine and expand their vacation package programs, beginning with NWA WorldVacations packages to Europe.

December 7: Wings Holdings, parent corporation of Northwest Airlines, is renamed Northwest Airlines Corporation.

Northwest and KLM begin joint operation of all U.S.—Europe flights.

Northwest substantially completes its strategic route restructuring. Operating earnings improve $668.6 million and net earnings improve $964.2 million over 1992 results.

During the year, Northwest dramatically expands intercontinental service from Detroit, including non-stop service to Osaka and multiple daily flights to Tokyo.

Service expands to Reno, Raleigh/Durham and Vail/Beaver Creek.

For the fourth consecutive year, Northwest has best on-time performance among the seven largest U.S. airlines, based on U.S. Department of Transportation consumer reports for the domestic operations of ten reporting U.S. airlines.


February 15: Northwest and KLM introduce World Business Class, a roomier and enhanced international business class service offered at a regular business class price. They are the first airlines from two different countries to offer a joint international service product.

February 23: Northwest Aerospace Training Corporation (NATCO) signs agreement to train pilots for five Chinese airlines. NATCO now provides pilot training to more than 100 outside customers.

March 2: Completes a restructuring of its Memphis hub schedule into three omni-directional banks, improving connecting opportunities and profitability.

May 4: A la Carte meal service is honored by In-Flight Food Service Association.

June 30: Selects Chisholm as the site for its new northern Minnesota reservations and service center. Develops Airbus heavy maintenance base at Duluth International Airport.

August 1: Announces plans to hushkit and install new interiors on its DC-9-30 aircraft to answer near-term fleet needs for 100-seat aircraft.

August 29: With Asiana, signs a joint marketing and code-share agreement for service between the United States and Korea.

November 1: Launches nonstop Seattle-Hong Kong service as "no smoking" route.

November 15: Boards it one millionth Japanese passenger of 1994, earliest date ever for this milestone.

Service expands to Vancouver, Canada; Jacksonville, Florida; Mexico City, Mexico; and Sioux City, Iowa.

Records a 1994 net profit of $295.5 million, leading all U.S. airlines in net profitability.

For fifth consecutive year, Northwest has best on-time performance among the seven largest U.S. airlines, based on U.S. Department of Transportation consumer reports for the domestic operations of ten reporting U.S. airlines.


January 6: Northwest inaugurates Seattle-Osaka nonstop service.

January 11: Northwest announces "no smoking" flights on all transatlantic routes to Frankfurt, Paris and London.

January/February: Teams with AmeriCares relief organization to aid Japan earthquake victims. Boeing 747 freighter relief flights carries over 500,000 pounds of supplies.

March 8: Northwest Airlines, Inc. and AirTran Corporation reach a preliminary agreement for Northwest to increase its ownership of AirTran to 30%. AirTran is the parent of Mesaba Aviation, Inc., which operates as Northwest Airlink at Detroit and Minneapolis/St. Paul.

April 20: Northwest inaugurates Detroit—London service.

May 1: Launches new service to Regina, Vancouver, Saskatoon, Montreal, Halifax and Calgary, after U.S. and Canada sign an "Open Skies" agreement.

May: Northwest and KLM offer twice-daily service between Amsterdam and both the Detroit and Minneapolis/St. Paul hubs this summer.

Service expands to Colorado Springs.

June 7: Northwest earns third consecutive award from Ashington-Pickett for best overall service among airlines in the United States.

June 27: KLM and Northwest launch nonstop Memphis-Amsterdam MD-11 service.

July 11: Northwest and KLM expand smoke-free policy on international routes.

July 19: Northwest expands its nonstop service from Seattle/Tacoma to Osaka and Hong. Now four weekly round-trip flights in both markets.

August 21: Northwest and Alaska Airlines announce a comprehensive marketing and code sharing agreement Northwest and Alaska customers will enjoy the benefits of a coordinated route system that covers the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Asia, and Europe.

October 19: First AmeriCares Heroic Action Award presented to Northwest for its lifesaving contributions to the relief efforts of Kobe, Japan following the 1995 earthquake.

October 27: Northwest and KLM begin daily nonstop flights from Washington, D.C. (Dulles) to Amsterdam.

November 13: Northwest launches weekly nonstop Minneapolis/St. Paul—Tokyo service.


January 8: Service expands to Charlotte, N.C.

January 10: Consumers give Northwest high marks and recognize it as the most improved of the seven largest U.S. airlines.

January 22: Northwest and Eurowings sign an agreement making service to Amsterdam, Nuremberg, Stuttgart, Dusseldorf, Leipzig, Hannover, and Dresden more accessible.

February 1: Electronic ticketing now an option to passengers traveling on any of Northwest's 33 daily Chicago O'Hare—Minneapolis/St. Paul flights.

February 5: Northwest extends smoke-free policy between Japan and Micronesia as well as to one additional flight between United States and Asia.

February 7: Claims sixth consecutive first place finish for on-time performance among the seven largest airlines.

March 25: Northwest Begins service between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Saginaw/Bay City/Midland, Michigan.

March 28: Launches World Web home page on the Internet.

April 15: Electronic ticketing begins between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Newark, New York-La Guardia, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. (National).

April 26: Northwest and Air China create a marketing alliance—first of its kind between the two countries.

May 1: Northwest begins service from Piedmont Triad International Airport to Detroit.

May 1: Launches first United States-China nonstop service from Detroit to Beijing.

June 14: Wins PRSA Silver Anvil award for Kobe Earthquake relief efforts.

June 21: Ranks number one in customer satisfaction in J.D. Power/Frequent Flyer Survey for short distance flights.

July 2: Begins daily flights to Kalispell and Bozeman, Mont.

July 8: Northwest chefs recognized for their excellent cooking.

July 17: Northwest and KLM announce distribution markets for Internet and on-line services.

July 29: Northwest Airlink inaugurates service from Detroit to Appleton, Wis. and Rockford, Ill.

August 22: Northwest and Mahalo Air announce a cooperative marketing agreement which includes code-sharing on flights in the Honolulu—West Maui and Honolulu—Molokai markets.

September 4: Caravali Coffees of Seattle announces the arrival of Northwest Airlines Blend coffee to its line of specialty brews.

September 5: Northwest and AmeriCares team up to provide relief supplies to China flood victims.

September 11: Northwest names James Lawrence executive vice president and chief financial officer.

September 27: Northwest and Sotheby's conduct first airline auction live and open to the public using WorldPerks frequent flier miles as currency. More than 8.3 million miles are bid on more than 30 unique once-in-a-lifetime experience packages. Habitat for Humanity is the major beneficiary.

October 28: Signs Jetlink agreement with Mesaba Airlines. Mesaba will operate 12 Avro-RJ-85 regional jet aircraft as Northwest Jetlink service.

December 10: Teams with Microsoft and Worldspan to develop an on-line web site booking service.

December 24: Boards its 1.5 millionth passenger in Japan during 1996, marking the first year Northwest has boarded more than 1.5 million.



January 21: Announces year-end earnings of $536.1 million—largest annual net income in its history.

January 30: Walter F. Mondale, former Vice President of the United States and Ambassador to Japan, is elected to Northwest Board of Directors.

February 24: Begins non-stop service between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Toronto.

February 25: Files to reinstate service to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia via Osaka, pending Japanese government approval.

March 12: Launches WorldPlane Tour '97, a Boeing 747-400 adorned with children's artwork from 18 cities in the United States and Asia. Commemorating Northwest's 50th anniversary of service to Asia, the tour expresses the 50th anniversary theme, "Bridging the Pacific."

March 17: New Electronic Service Centers in Minneapolis/St. Paul and Chicago-O'Hare.

March 24: Northwest and Express Airlines I reach an agreement for Northwest to purchase Express, which operates as a Northwest Airlink partner in Memphis.

March 25: Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson and Northwest announce "FLY LOCAL" test in five greater Minnesota cities. Program is aimed at reducing air fares and stimulating passenger traffic.

March 27: Offers secured, on-line booking via WorldWeb site at http://www.nwa.com.

April 7: Inaugurates nonstop service between the Twin Cities and Osaka, Japan.

April 21: Northwest and Garuda Indonesia sign commercial cooperation agreement to offer enhanced travel benefits between the United States and Indonesia, the first such alliance between a U.S. and Indonesian airline.

April 21: Unveils International Gold Elite frequent flier program designed to recognize international business travelers around the world.

May 1: Northwest and KLM inaugurate nonstop service between Newark and Amsterdam.

May: Provides many airlift flights for flood victims in the Red River Valley. Thousands of volunteers and tons of cargo are flown in to area.

June 29-July 3: Northwest AirCares presents concert series at Mall of America: Jam Against Hunger benefits Red River Valley flood relief efforts.

July 1: George Kourpias, former International President of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers is named to the Board of Directors.

July 15: Celebrates its 50th anniversary of service from the United States to Asia, becoming the only airline in history to mark this milestone. 

July 21: Announces intent to purchase 24 more British Aerospace Avro RJ85 regional jet aircraft.

August 20: Introduces "Every Day Deals," giving leisure travelers year-round savings.

August 29: Northwest and Alaska Airlines announce expansion of their existing code-sharing agreement to include Alaska's flights to the Russian Far East.

September 24: Northwest/KLM announce change to commission structure, capping domestic and international commissions at eight percent.

September 24: Concludes agreement with Airbus for 50 A319 aircraft. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in 1999 at a rate of 10 per year.

September 29: Northwest and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines sign a ten year "Global Joint Venture" agreement. The two airlines agree to expand their current areas of cooperation for scheduling, inventory management, passenger processing, computer reservations systems and frequent flier databases. They will also streamline sales and marketing, purchasing, ground handling and catering. Each airline will also gain a seat on the other's Board of Directors.

October 1: Northwest/KLM inaugurate joint service from Amsterdam to Delhi and Mumbai India.

October 1: Launches nonstop service from Detroit to New York-JFK.

October 2: Inaugurates nonstop Minneapolis/St. Paul—Hong Kong service.

October 9: Northwest and Mesaba sign ten year agreement for Mesaba to operate as Northwest Airlink at Detroit and Minneapolis/St. Paul.

October 9: Northwest and Jet Airways of India announce a cooperative marketing agreement to provide enhanced benefits for passengers on Northwest/KLM flights to India.

October 27: Ranks second in Fortune survey of the World's Most Admired Companies.

October 30: Refines global alliance strategy, ends Asiana code-share agreement.

October 31: Creates marketing affiliation with Aloha Airlines of Hawaii.

November 6: Launches three-week Minnesota Holiday Hunger Relief campaign; goal of program is to ensure more than two million holiday meals for hungry in Minnesota. Beneficiary is Minnesota Food Bank Network.

November 20: Names three new members to Board of Directors: author/historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, Harvard professor Dennis F. Hightower, and KLM president and CEO Leo van Wijk.

November 20: Expands "one-plus" carry-on policy to all flights.

November 24: Northwest and Braathens SAFE, Norway's largest regional carrier, announce a cooperative marketing partnership to provide enhanced travel benefits to and from Scandinavia.

December 6: Northwest "Pilots for Kids" volunteers take Children's Home Society children on Fantasy Flight to the North Pole.


January 7: Northwest AirCares charitable support program teams with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

January 20: Reports record 1997 profits of $597 million, the largest annual net income in its history.

January 26: Reaches global alliance agreement with Continental Airlines; purchases Air Partners stock.

February 1: Northwest Cargo launches Boeing 747 freighter service to Manila.

February 2: Northwest and KLM named "Airline of the Year" by Air Transport World magazine; Mesaba Airlines, operating as Northwest Airlink, named "Regional Airline of the Year."

Suspends Detroit—Seoul nonstop service.

February 3: Agreement with James Page Brewing Company to serve its Iron Range Amber lager beer on Northwest's domestic flights beginning this spring.

February 14: Receives NAACP Corporate Award.

April 5: Begins nonstop service between Osaka and Taipei.

Northwest/KLM inaugurate nonstop service between Seattle and Amsterdam.

April 17: Northwest WorldPerks members can now book and redeem frequent flyer miles online.

May 1: Northwest and KLM inaugurate nonstop service between Philadelphia and Amsterdam.

Northwest completes KLM stock repurchase.

May 11: Northwest and its U.S. airline partners sign commercial alliance agreement with Air China.

June 1: Inaugurates twice weekly nonstop Las Vegas—Tokyo service, increases Los Angeles—Tokyo service to 10 weekly flights. Frequency later increases to thrice-weekly.

Suspends Chicago—Tokyo nonstop service.

Begins nonstop jet service between Detroit and Manchester, New Hampshire, and between Detroit and Birmingham, Alabama.

June 2: Inaugurates nonstop service between Detroit and Nagoya, Japan.

June 18: Launches weekly nonstop service between Anchorage and Tokyo.

June 23: NorthwestTM CyberSavers fares available through email.

July 1: Inaugurates nonstop jet service between Detroit and Lexington, Kentucky.

August 1: Northwest/KLM become smoke-free worldwide.

August 6: Northwest opens expanded Azuma WorldClub lounge at Tokyo's Narita Airport.

August 11: Signs cooperative marketing agreement with KLM exel, formerly known as Air Exel Netherlands BV. KLM exel is an independently owned and operated airline and an affiliate of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

Introduces "Fly North Dakota," a six-month test of reduced business fares to stimulate business passenger traffic in North Dakota.

August 19: First U.S. airline to operate a new route through Russian airspace on its Detroit-Beijing flight. New route is called Polar 2.

August 21: Appoints Annette Murphy vice president-corporate and agency sales, North America.

August 28: Ceases flying due to a strike by its 6,100 pilots who are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association labor union.

September 16: Northwest jets return to the sky following the resolution of contract negotiations with its 6,100 pilots. Northwest operates a complete schedule on Sept. 21.

October 1: Inaugurates nonstop Gulfport/Biloxi-Memphis service.

Mesaba Airlines, a Northwest Airlink affiliate, inaugurates nonstop Avro RJ85 service between Duluth and Detroit.

Announces "Fly South Dakota," a six-month test program of reduced business fares to stimulate business passenger traffic in the state.

October 12: Announces expansion of E-Ticket electronic ticketing service to Mexico City, Cancun, Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, Saint Maarten, Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai.

October 27: Northwest and Air China begin reciprocal code-share service between China and the United States.

Northwest Boeing 747 all-cargo freighter arrives in Beijing carrying nearly 200,000 pounds of relief supplies for Yangtze River flood victims. Northwest partnered with AmeriCares to collect and transport the supplies.

November 19: Unveils "Alliance Plane" at Minneapolis/St. Paul. Douglas DC-10 is painted in the joint liveries of Northwest and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and celebrates the successful partnership between the two carriers.

November 20: Announces plans to double Tokyo-Anchorage service during the 1999 summer travel period. Northwest will operate two weekly round-trip flights with DC-10 aircraft.

November 23: Restructures travel agent commissions on international tickets.

November 26: Sponsors second annual Thanksgiving Walk for Hunger Relief at Mall of America.

December 3: Restructures Detroit-Nagoya schedule and inaugurates beyond service to Manila, Philippines.

December 14: Richard Anderson, executive vice president-technical operations, flight operations and airport affairs assumes additional responsibility of chief operating officer. John Dasburg extends contract to remain president and chief executive officer.

December 22: Extends commercial cooperation agreements with Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air.


January 7: Continental Airlines and Northwest Airlines begin domestic code-share flights.

January 16: Inaugurates service to Kaohsiung, Taiwan—its 14th destination in the Asia/Pacific region.

February 25: Inaugurates service to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia—its 15th destination in the Asia/Pacific region. (Northwest previously served Kuala Lumpur from 1985-1987.)

February 18: Northwest to acquire 54 CRJ Series 200LR aircraft. Northwest also secures options for up to 70 further 50-seat CRJ aircraft under terms of the contract.

May 11: Ranked No. 1 Airline on the Internet by Business 2.0 magazine.

June 8: Northwest Airlines and Japan Air System announce alliance agreement.

June 25: Offers flight status and gate information to passengers through pagers or PCS phones.

August 10: Becomes first carrier to operate new route through Russian airspace.

September 14: Northwest Airlines and Cyprus Airways form partnership.

September 15: Announces "Customers First" service plan.

September 23: Northwest Airlines and Malaysia Airlines sign commercial cooperation agreement.

September 27: Northwest and Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority officials agree on a $400 million renovation and expansion plan for Memphis International Airport. The projects are scheduled to be completed in 2004.

September 28: Announces plan to equip fleet with defibrillators by end of 2000. 

December 3: Department of Transportation grants anti-trust immunity to tripartite alliance of Northwest, KLM and Alitalia.

December 20: Northwest inaugurates codeshare service with KLM to Rome, Milan, Turin, Venice and Bologna, Italy. The flights represent Northwest's first service to Italy and are made possible by the new U.S.-Italy Open Skies agreement.