Northwest Airlines

From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Northwest Airlines is a large international airline based in Eagen, Minnesota. It has hubs in Detroit, Memphis, and Minneapolis/St. Paul, as well as Amsterdam and Tokyo. In the US one of its brands is Northwest Airlink.[1]

Violation Tracker
Discover Which Corporations are the Biggest Violators of Environmental, Health and Safety Laws in the United States
Violation Tracker is the first national search engine on corporate misconduct covering environmental, health, and safety cases initiated by 13 federal regulatory agencies. Violation Tracker is produced by the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First. Click here to access Violation Tracker.

This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Northwest Airlines and the tobacco industry

In a very bold move for the time, in March 1988 Northwest Airlines banned smoking on all of its North American flights.[1] The policy change resulted in Northwest enduring considerable pressure from the tobacco industry to reverse its ban.

In a March 1988 letter, Frederick Ross Johnson, President and Chief Eexecutive Officer of RJR Nabisco, retaliated against Northwest Airlines' voluntary ban on smoking on aircraft by announcing his company and its subsidiaries would boycott the airline. Johnson wrote:

Based on your decision to ban smoking aboard Northwest Airlines flights, I must inform you that RJR Nabisco, Inc., as well as its operating companies, can no longer view Northwest Airlines as a company that wishes to maintain a productive business relationship with RJR Nabisco...I have therefore instructed our 120,000 employees world-wide to seek carriers other than Northwest Airlines for their transportation needs...

This is an example of the type of economic aggression tobacco companies inflict upon businesses that adopt smoke-free policies, and to try and pressure them into changing their policies.

RJR and the Tobacco Institute undertook other measures to counteract Northwest's new policy, including stimulating employees and members of trade groups to write letters to Northwest protesting the ban.[2][3]

Frank Resnick, President and CEO of Philip Morris and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Tobacco Institute, wrote a March, 25, 1988 memo to all Philip Morris employees encouraging retaliation against Northwest:

Northwest Airlines has announced it intends to ban smoking on all its flights in the continental United States beginning April 23, 1988. Northwest's action is clearly a marketing ploy -- using smokers to get some cheap publicity for its flights. No law requires them to ban smoking on flights greater than two hours, yet they are doing it. We must stand up for fair and equal treatment of smokers as well as non-smokers. We cannot allow one company to abuse our customers in this way.

This outrageous and discriminatory ban requires an immediate response :

  • Beginning today, no Philip Morris U .S .A . employee will use\ Northwest Airlines for business travel unless there is no transportation alternative.
  • Phone Northwest Airlines directly at 1-800-225-2525 and tell them you oppose this ban.
  • Send a mailgram to Northwest to protest this action. To help you we have set up a toll-free mailgram account. Simply phone Western Union at 1-800-257-4900, ask for operator 9381 and dictate a message. Western Union is available weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Some sample messages are attached. The mailgram will automatically go to Northwest management.
  • Distribute copies of the attachment to this memo to your friends, family and business associates. Encourage them to protest this mean-spirited marketing ploy.[4]

Political contributions

Andrea Fischer Newman, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs of Northwest Airlines, is a Bush Pioneer (see Bush's Rangers) having raised at least $100,000 for Bush in the 2004 presidential election. [5]

Northwest was the second largest donor to political campaigns in the airline industry in the 2004 election cycle, split 41% Democrat and 57% Republican.[2]

In the 2006 election cycle Northwest gave $159,750 to federal candidates through its political action committee - 38% to Democrats and 62% to Republicans. [6]


The company spent $1,867,896 for lobbying in 2006. $1,305,000 went to 12 outside lobbying firms with the remainder being spent using in-house lobbyists.[7]


Selected executives:[8]

Selected board members: [9]

Contact details

2700 Lone Oak Pkwy.
Eagan, MN 55121
Phone: 612-726-2111
Fax: 612-726-7123


  1. Profile, Hoovers, accessed July 2007.
  2. Anne Landman, American Lung Association of Colorado Push or Be Punished: Tobacco industry documents reveal aggression against businesses that discourage tobacco use Tobacco Control 2000;9:339-346, Industry Watch. September, 2000
  3. F.R. Johnson, RJR Nabisco As Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of RJR Nabisco, Inc., I want to express my extreme disappointment with Northwest Airlines' decision to ban smoking on all its flights within North America. Letter. March 29, 1988. Bates No. 506646914
  4. Frank E. Resnick, Philip Morris Northwest Airlines Smoking Ban Memorandum. March 25, 1988. 1 page. Bates No. 2021205032
  5. Pioneers and Rangers, Texans for Public Justice, accessed July 2007.
  6. 2006 PAC Summary Data, Open Secrets, accessed July 2007.
  7. Northwest Airlines lobbying expenses, Open Secrets.
  8. Senior Officers, Northwest Airlines, accessed July 2007.
  9. Board of Directors, Northwest Airlines, accessed July 2007.

<tdo>resource_id=27929 resource_code=n_w_air search_term=Northwest Airlines</tdo>