MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Mesaba Airlines, one of the country’s largest regional carriers, canceled all of its nearly 500 flights Saturday as negotiations with its pilots continued hours past a strike deadline.
The carrier, which funnels passengers to Northwest Airlines’ hubs, has said it would not try to fly if the pilots went on strike, fearing its planes would be stranded in the far-flung cities it serves.
Mesaba spokesman Dave Jackson said some Friday flights and all 450 to 500 Saturday flights were canceled. He refused to comment further.
About one in every 12 Northwest passengers flies part of their trip on Mesaba.
Tom Wychor, chairman of the Mesaba pilots unit of the national Air Line Pilots Association, said the union was holding off on a strike, which could have started at midnight, because the two sides were making progress.
``If we’re unable to reconcile our differences with management within a limited period of time, we will declare a strike,″ he said.
Mesaba’s 844 pilots provide regional air service for Northwest from its hubs in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Detroit and Memphis, Tenn. The airline serves 119 cities in the northern United States and Canada, including several that are not served by any other airline.
Pilots’ pay is a key issue in the dispute. Mesaba says it must keep its labor costs flat to keep flying for Northwest, which owns 28 percent of the company.
A Northwest spokeswoman declined to answer questions about how the larger airline would be affected by a Mesaba strike.
On the Net:
Mesaba Airlines: http://www.mesaba.com
Northwest Airlines: http://www.nwa.com
Air Line Pilots Association: http://www.alpa.org