After $761 million in public financing in the early
nineties, countless broken promises to workers, unions, legislators, and the
inane poke to the rectum that is the price of the Northwest
SmartSnack, Minnesota’s favorite dysfunctional relationship is over.
Sure, it was great to throw our international hub status in the faces of those
who would dare deem us flyover country. And surely the fascinating articles on
Minnesota cities and landmarks featured in NWA WorldTraveler
brought hordes of screaming tourists to our fair state and raised the profile
Lake on the world stage. The tax revenue didn’t hurt either.
But we paid dearly for these perks. For no matter how many
times the airline took advantage of our willingness to bend over, we never once
got a reacharound.
And make no mistake, the announced acquisition of Northwest Airlines by Delta
is no exception.
Many are calling this move a merger. I call bullshit. Delta
is paying $3.1 billion for Northwest, the company is going to be called Delta,
and the headquarters is going to be located in Atlanta. This shouldn’t strike
anyone with a functioning neuron as a merger of equals. Of course, this isn’t
such a horrible thing for the companies. By trimming operations, marketing, and
executive staff, not to mention logistics, at various airports, the company
gets to continue to do business in a remarkably inefficient way – continuing
the holding action the airlines have been running for the last decade as they
try to cope with the economic realities of the modern world.
That’s what this merger is about. Two large airlines, both
in fairly weak positions coming off bankruptcy, recognizing that being bigger
would allow them to continue the status quo for a few more years before the
economy and their own stultifying cultures and abject idiocy brings them
inevitably to the conclusion that the only way to survive and cover the rising
cost of jet fuel is to sell "executive
services" in WorldClub lounges.
But what does this mean for Minnesota? In the short term,
we’re getting buggered again, sans lube. Northwest HQ will leave town, along
with the high paying jobs and tax revenues that accompany it. The newly merged
company will have a conversation with our esteemed governor to discuss how it
can adhere to the "spirit" of its agreements with the state and much noise will
be made about the obvious benefits of whatever agreement is made to release the
company from its obligations – maybe we’ll take flying unicorns instead of
planes, and the in-flight drink service will include MDMA cocktails, making for
the happiest red-eye in aviation history.
Regardless, Minnesota’s grand tradition of being boned by
business will, of course, preclude taking payment on the $245 million in
bonding money the airline technically would owe the state for pulling the
headquarters out of the state.
Of course, Northwest leaving would present more opportunity
should our government show some huevos and take away some of the preferred
provider status the airline enjoys at MSP. For years, Northwest has rabidly
turned away competition at the airport by undercutting competitor pricing and
locking up three quarters of the gates at the Lindbergh Terminal. With
concessions from the uber-line, we could have real competition in the market.
Southwest and JetBlue might actually set up shop here, thus dropping average
fares for Minnesotans. Because sure, we have service to 160 cities, but on
average it costs us $60 more per ticket to get to any of them, according to a
University of California, Berkeley study.
But given how many times our government has rolled over and
wet itself in the face of pressure from business interests, I’d say das
uber-line will be happily gouging Minnesotans for Cancun vacations until we
rise up in a grand populist rebellion, or until they realize what kind of
Alexandra Dupre could bring to the WorldClubs.