NWA: Paris without pause

  • Article by: LIZ FEDOR , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 19, 2007 - 8:48 PM

Northwest Airlines intends to begin nonstop, daily service between the Twin Cities and Paris.

The Eagan-based carrier is expected to formally announce the new service Monday during a news conference at the Hotel Sofitel in Bloomington, according to a source with knowledge of the plan.

The carrier will use a new Airbus A330 to fly the Paris route.

In a May interview, Northwest CEO Doug Steenland said, "There is a substantial possibility that we would be able to justify a Minneapolis-Paris nonstop route."

Tammy Lee, Northwest vice president of corporate communications, on Friday declined to confirm the new service.

But Steenland, speaking to reporters Thursday at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, foreshadowed that new international service was in the cards for the Twin Cities.

Standing in front of a new A330, Steenland said that he "wouldn't be surprised" by an announcement of a new route from Minneapolis.

"For its size, the Twin Cities gets a lot of international service," he added, noting that the carrier flies once a day to Tokyo on weekdays and twice a day on weekends. In addition, he said there are three daily flights from the Twin Cities to Amsterdam and a single daily flight to London's Gatwick Airport.

A start date for the new service to Paris was not available on Friday.

Steenland met with reporters Thursday to focus on the delivery of the 32nd Airbus A330 for Northwest's fleet.

"We now have the youngest international fleet of any North American carrier," Steenland said. "The A330 economy class seat provides the most room of any seat in our fleet."

The A330s have on-demand video offerings for all seats in coach and business class. The front of the cabin has lie-flat seats for business-class passengers.

"We have been courting new international service for a number of years," said Metropolitan Airports Commission spokesman Patrick Hogan. "International air service is very important to Minnesota's economy in terms of developing trade relations and visitors from other parts of the world."

Northwest is expanding the international portion of its business at a rate of about 4 percent a year. It also intends to be the U.S. launch customer for Boeing's new 787 or Dreamliner. Northwest intends to use that aircraft on a new Detroit-Shanghai nonstop route in 2009.

Because Boeing has indicated that it will delay delivery of the Dreamliner for Northwest and other customers, the precise date for the first Northwest flight of that aircraft is unclear.

Liz Fedor • 612-673-7709

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