Northwest Airlines has extended the deadline for deciding whether to cancel Mesaba‘s contract to operate thirty-six Avro RJ85s on its behalf under the Northwest Jet Airlink brand. The contract between the two airlines runs through 2006, but under its terms Northwest can terminate it, at its sole discretion, by providing notice to Mesaba on or before 28 October. At Mesaba’s request, the deadline was extended to 15 December. If Northwest does decide to terminate the contract, it would then end on 25 April 2004. Northwest is said to be thinking of replacing the 69-seat RJ85s with smaller aircraft. Mesaba’s pilots, however, see a more sinister motive: providing pressure in their on-going contract negotiations with the airline. Losing the contract to operate the RJ85s would be a major blow to Mesaba, as they generate about 40 percent of its revenue. Whatever the ultimate decision, plans call for five of the RJ85s to be withdrawn: three in early December, and two in early January. This would bring Mesaba’s fleet down to thirty, one example being still grounded for repairs after a ground taxiing accident in 2002.