BuzzBomb to Northwest Airlines


This week we award a BuzzBomb to Northwest Airlines.

What’s a BuzzBomb? Well, no, this isn’t the World War II variety.

Rather, it’s our way of spotlighting something in this industry that we find objectionable.

This week we are compelled to award one to Northwest Airlines for the way in which it administered a crucial change in their medical coverage. Essentially the airline only gave employees two weeks in which to “sign up” for the new coverage. While the fact the airline is attempting to consolidate its health coverage is understandable, a small two-week window during which employees are expected to respond is not. Especially when the alternative is NO coverage for the remainder of the year.

I’ll let one of our readers explain:

“Holly: Just when I thought that I had become used to the cynical manner in which NWA management treats their “valued” employees, a new shot to the kidneys was received last week. At present, NWA has three different medical plans that cover their employees–you pick and choose (and pay!) for the one that best suits your needs.

During open enrollment in the late fall, you can change your selection and if you failed to select, the default was the company “standard” coverage. In an attempt to consolidate these plans under one roof, NWA wants to switch to a Blue Cross Anthem plan for all employees–a cost measure. Certainly understandable while in Chapter 11.

However in what has to be the most obnoxious blast at us and our families, NWA has now mandated a two week “enrollment” period which ends June 21. All NWA employees are required to sign up for the “new” medical/dental plan. Failure to do so within the two week window means you go the new default–absolutely NO COVERAGE for the remainder of 2006! Considering the number of employees with severe medical issues for themselves or their family members that require ongoing care and coverage this is simply off the scale.

Now you know that Northwest knows that a certain percentage (read: large!) of people just toss company mail into the trash without reading it or folks may be on leaves, vacation or other absences and will miss this two week period. In yet another effort to slam their employees NWA is willing to trash the medical coverage of entire families in order to save money–for executive bonuses, no doubt–leaving honest, hard-working and long-suffering employees in the lurch. Cruel? Cynical? Calculated? You bet!

Remember, this is the same company that attacked their own credit union and attempted to extort money from their employees via their bank accounts all in the name of “revenue enhancement.” I have served NWA for a quarter of a century with pride and even a certain amount of affection. I have become used to the sucker punches we get from time to time (I duck fast) but this is a new low for NWA management. It shows just how vicious this outfit really can be.”

I agree.

I can easily see how people could have missed the notices, been out of town, whatever. The company should have given employees more time in which to make sure everything was taken care of properly. What was really scary was when we sent out a couple of email notices to friends we know who work at Northwest, and one third told me they didn’t realize this had even taken place.

A BuzzBomb on Northwest. Shame on you.