It's hard to believe that nearly two years have passed since Delta acquired Northwest, but now, finally, the mega-merger of these two carriers is almost complete. On New Year's Day, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave Delta the OK to fully integrate Northwest under the Delta name. Northwest had been flying as an independent subsidiary, owned by Delta but operating its own flight codes and dispatch system, and using its own pilots.
The Wall Street Journal reports that, "In the coming weeks, pilots from Delta and Northwest are scheduled to share cockpits for the first time. By the end of March, Delta plans to replace separate ticketing systems with a single one as Northwest's flight codes are retired and visitors to Northwest's Web site get redirected to Delta." A new dispatch system will follow.
The most visible remaining changes are aesthetic. Delta has already outfitted 80 percent of Northwest's aircraft with Delta livery, and will make similar changes to the few remaining Northwest gates and airport facilities. As mentioned above, Northwest's website will be retired and users will be directed to Delta's homepage.
Delta stands to reap major financial benefits from full integration. The airline estimates it took in $700 million in merger benefits last year, and could top $2 billion after a few years of operating as a single, unified carrier. According to the WSJ, "As one airline, it can eliminate duplicate technology platforms and consolidate scheduling systems for pilots. It also will be able to better manage its inventory of seats, more easily shifting planes and crews to wherever they are needed."
For customers, the impact of this final push for integration should be minimal, though there is always potential for problems whenever systems are combined. Customers may face technical issues if merging ticketing system causes glitches, or delays if the new dispatch system struggles. Delta, however, is testing its new systems to make the transition as smooth as possible.
So, folks, if you haven't said your goodbyes to the silver and red, now's a good time to do it. And then get ready to say hello to a super-sized Delta.