NWA continues to pin flight cancellations on pilot absences

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Northwest Airlines saw more cancelled flights Saturday, with a company spokesman continuing to attribute the cancellations to pilot absenteeism.

The Web site FlightStats.com reported as of 8 p.m. CDT Saturday that Northwest, which has a hub in Memphis , had canceled 166 flights.

It reported that 1,056 scheduled flights departed. Northwest didn't release its own cancellation figures. But Roman Blahoski, spokesman for the Eagan-based carrier, said Saturday that the airline expected to complete 93 percent of its flights Saturday.

Its average completion rate from January to May was 98 percent, he said. Blahoski said the absenteeism was mainly affecting flights on narrow-bodied aircrafts.

The carrier canceled a total of 125 flights on Friday, according to FlightStats.com. The Northwest branch of the Air Line Pilots Association released a phone message to its members Friday that stated it didn't believe there had been an improper use of sick time.

If there was, the union suggested, it was caused by stress from increased flying hours.

The union has maintained that Northwest doesn't have enough pilots to fly its full schedule.

Northwest canceled more than 1,000 flights in the last week of June because of pilot availability and other factors, and announced earlier this month that it had thinned out its July schedule and cut its August schedule by 4 percent to try to prevent a repeat.

The carrier also began recalling furloughed pilots, and said it expects to hire 200 to 250 pilots in the next year.

Furloughed pilots must be retrained before they can resume flying.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)