Northwest Airlines plans to spend at least $50 million on customer service initiatives, airport technology and employee training this year.

Chief financial officer Dave Davis says Northwest, which emerged from bankruptcy protection at the end of May, will improve its business product, including meal service. Davis says the carrier is planning a moderate international expansion this year while keeping domestic growth flat in light of a softening US economy.

Davis told an investor conference in mid-June that "internationally, we're going to grow and expand our footprint", in part by adding more transatlantic services with its Boeing 757 fleet. He says the airline will also start using Japanese-speaking flight attendants on transpacific flights under a new Association of Flight Attendants agreement. These flight attendants had been kept from most transpacific flights because they did not have sufficient seniority under the old agreement.

Domestically, the carrier's new 76-seat two-class regional jets are replacing some of its ageing McDonnell Douglas DC-9s, but Davis says a decision to replace the remainder of its large DC-9 fleet is not imminent. "Quite frankly, the economics of the new 100-seaters is not yet compelling," he says.

Davis was recently promoted in a post-emergence executive shake-up that saw chief financial officer Neal Cohen assume the new role of executive vice- president of strategy and international and chief executive of regional airlines. Cohen will take over some responsibilities from Phil Haan, who is leaving. Cohen is a target of labour anger, both for his role in obtaining pay cuts during the Northwest restructuring and for his role in demanding wage concessions while at US Airways during that carrier's two bankruptcy reorganisations before it merged with America West. Haan joined the company in 1991.

Source: Airline Business