Northwest Settles In Detroit Blizzard Lawsuit

The winter of their discontent is now more than just a memory … it's a hefty cash payout as well.

In response to a class action lawsuit brought against Northwest Airlines involving more than 7,000 passenger who were affected by canceled flights and delays during the 1999 New Year’s weekend snowstorm in Detroit, the carrier is opening its wallet.

While not admitting that its actions during the storm were inappropriate, the airline announced today that it will pay a total of $7.1 million. After attorneys' fees, the remainder will be distributed to class members, pending a final hearing on April 24.

The New Year;s weekend storm, which prompted more than 1,100 Northwest flight cancellations, came at one of the busiest travel times of the year. Not only were planes delayed in taking off, but planes that had arrived were prevented from taxiing to the terminal. The result: thousands of passengers stranded in 28 planes up to 11 hours, some with no food service. Toilets were overflowing.

Northwest had blamed some of its problems that day on the airport, its snow removal contractor, and on the city of Detroit for not clearing residential streets, thus preventing Northwest employees from getting to work.

The carrier faced a hailstorm of media criticism and customer lawsuits, leading to today's settlement.