orthwest appears to be the first
mainstream airline to adopt a zero commission policy in North
America, and, even though it is confined to the Internet, that
goose egg sitting there is demanding that we sit up and take
The zero may not have been a great shock to those agents who've
long felt that it's only a matter of time before the airlines go to
zero commissions. The idea has been kicking around for years.
The shocker may not be the zero so much as the distribution channel
to which it applies. Northwest has been complaining loudly of late
about rising distribution costs, but does it make sense to
eliminate the small tribute it pays to Web-based intermediaries,
who are said to be its lowest-cost outlets?
Some of Northwest's critics are saying the move makes so little
economic sense that there must be a darker motive. Northwest's
silence on the matter does nothing to dispel such suspicions.
Northwest doesn't owe the world an explanation for every
business decision it makes, and in light of antitrust concerns, it
has to be prudent about its public comments on pricing and
In this case, however, it seems to us that Northwest's army of
marketing, public relations and legal experts should be able to
come up with something.
Give us a clue.
Take a moment and offer a salute to the proud names
McDonnell-Douglas and to all the proud birds descended from the
Boeing, which acquired McDonnell-Douglas in 1997, closed its
MD-11 production line in Long Beach, Calif., last month and
delivered to Lufthansa the last civil aircraft to bear the MD
designation, an MD-11 freighter.