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    Case Analysis: Northwest Airlines and the Detroit Snowstorm Essay

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    (Case Analysis: Northwest Airlines and the Detroit Snowstorm 1. What exactly went wrong? How bad was this situation? Ans: There was a snowstorm on Saturday, January 2nd, which was very serious and caused over 10 inches of snowfall. Northwest Airlines had been too late to halt the departure of their planes from other cities to Detroit, on of its largest hub. They made the decision to let 30 planes land in Detroit on Sunday, neglecting those 14 inches of snow and the severe weather condition. Luckily, all the planes were landed successfully without any major accidents or disasters.

    However, the planes had to sit on the tarmac for over 8 hours before they could deplane their passengers. All the food, water and drinks were used up after two or three hours of waiting on the taxiways. There were infants as well as old people onboard, which made the situation even critical. The lavatories were out of function as the maximum capacity had been reached. The temperature was around 20s outside the plane, which meant that it was impossible to open the emergency door to deplane the passengers.

    Some of the passengers were fed up by the conditions and went out of control, making the situation of the cabin even worse. 2. Could this situation have been avoided? If not, could it have been mitigated (and if so, how)? Ans: This situation could possibly have been avoided if Northwest Airlines had cancelled the departure of their planes to Detroit earlier. Other airlines had not encountered such a serious situation, while the planes of other airlines were just needed to wait for around an hour.

    The SOC director at the headquarter of Northwest Airlines had made some bad decision to cause the disaster. In addition, the situation could also been mitigated after the decision of the SOC director. Northwest Airlines had not tired their best to seek for help from the other airlines. The situation would be much more better if they asked more of the other airlines for lending their open gates to deplane the passengers. Only Continental Airline had lent an open gate to Northwest Airlines that helped to deplane three flights.

    Other airlines had claimed that they had not received any call from Northwest Airlines regarding the situation nor asking any help from them. Also, the situation could be mitigated if Northwest Airlines had integrated stairs on their planes. Spirit Airlines had in fact safely deplane their passengers using the integrated stairs. The passengers were then immediately taken into waiting rental car company buses to the terminal. The Northwest Airlines could borrow the appropriate mobile passenger stairs from another airline to mitigate the situation, but they had not considered to do so. . Who is responsible and why? Was the cause of this situation an “act of God” (the weather) or some organization? If an organization was responsible, which was it? Ans: The Systems Operations Control (“SOC”) group had to be responsible for this situation. They are the one responsible for monitoring and coordinating Northwest Airline’s response to schedule problems and any other potential problems. On Saturday, January 2nd, Northwest Airline’s Chief Dispatcher had already suggested that the conditions were bad enough to justify a shutdown of NWA’s operations.

    However, the director of the SOC department insisted to carry on the departures due to given that conditions were still above legal minimums. He was the one to decide the NWA’s operations at Detroit should continue, although he did reduce the number of arrivals from 39 to 25 per bank. This situation was certainly not caused by an “act of God”. It was a fact that the weather was very bad, but there were even worse weather in other locations of which NWA had been encountered.

    In my opinion, the whole NWA and Detroit Metro Airport should take responsibility of this severe situation. The bad decision from the SOC director was actually just focused on making more flights (which meant more revenue), neglecting the potential danger and disaster. The lack of integrated stairs in the planes of Northwest Airline should not be neglected, or else the passengers could have been deplaned using the integrated stairs as Spirit Airline did. The lack of communication with the other airlines was also one of the major causes of the disaster.

    Northwest Airline maybe too proud of themselves at this hub because they were the chief airline of the Detroit Metro Airport as their flights had accounted approximately 57% of the airport’s total scheduled passenger operations. They just did not want to ask for a helping hand from the other airlines in my opinion as they did not realize how critical the situation was in the cabin. On the other hand, the airport should also take action to deplane all the flights as soon as possible by asking the use of open gates from other airlines.

    They should realize the shortage of water and food inside the flights. There was not only one flight on the taxiways, but thirty. The lives of the passengers should be at the top priority of which the control manager of the airport had not noticed, despite the fact that he was surrounded and bombed by other people. 4. What should Northwest Airlines do in response to this situation? Ans: Northwest Airlines should ask for help from the other airlines as soon as possible, either for open gates or integrated stairs.

    They should also ask for portable water or food from wherever and see if it was possible to deliver. In such a critical situation with patients and infants, they should also try to call 911 for emergency help. The fire and emergency rescue department should be able to deplane the passengers in some ways. They had not done all those as they were concerned the image of the airline would be affected. However, doing those things maybe even better for their image as they might able to pull out the fact that their passengers were always on top of their priority list.

    They just could not afford to lose any life of their passengers. After all these had happened, they should also compensate to the passengers with some noticeable and valuable voucher such as a free flight. Other than the SOC director of the headquarter, all the other senior executives should form an emergency working group to do whatever they could to deplane and saved the lives of the passengers. In my opinion, all the people outside the cabins were just not realized how bad the situation would be if people were imprisoned on a plane for 8 hours without food and water.

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