Northwest Airlines’ Flight Attendants Okay Contract in a Squeaker

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What do they say — the third time’s the charm? Yes, but just barely.

It was announced today that flight attendants at Northwest Airlines have voted to ratify their latest tentative contract with the airline.

This was the third attempt at a contract, and the flight attendants last chance to get lump sum payments from the airline. Northwest is scheduled to emerge from bankruptcy Thursday, and had agreed to give the flight attendants an unsecured bankruptcy claim of $182 million if the contract was ratified. This amount comes to about  $15,000 per flight attendant. But if the contract had been turned down — the claim would have become null and void.

The contract was approved by only 104 votes, 50.9% to 49.1% of the total votes cast. The union said 6,442 flight attendants were eligible to vote, and 484 ballots were voided.

Interesting tidbit buried in the information released about the vote in a piece by the Associated Press: According to the AFA, only 6442 flight attendants were eligible to vote. But there are about 8100 current Northwest flight attendants. According to the AP, “Some flight attendants could not vote because their union dues were not current.”

I’d say almost 2000 flight attendants is a bit more than “some.”

I said in last week’s PBB I thought this one was too close to call. Even with the bankruptcy claim “sweetener” I was not sure it was a sure thing.

Ticker: (NYSE:NWA)