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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Northwest Airlines will begin operating the military’s Patriot Express passenger service in the Pacific starting Thursday, Air Force officials said.

The weekly roundtrip flight, which flies from Seattle to Kadena Air Base on Okinawa with a stop at Yokota, was suspended less than two weeks ago after the previous provider, ATA Airlines, declared bankruptcy and ceased all operations.

U.S. Transportation Command has advised that Northwest would begin operating the Patriot Express this week with the same stops, Lt. Col. Scott Graham, Yokota’s 730th Air Mobility Squadron deputy commander, said Monday.

Although flights will still hit the same bases, he said, the mission “will essentially operate in reverse.” Flights to Seattle from Kadena and Yokota will leave on Thursdays. Flights from Seattle will arrive at those bases on Fridays. In the past, flights from Seattle arrived at the bases on Fridays and departed for the States on Saturdays.

“We were told the same schedule is planned each week through the end of May,” Graham said, adding that U.S. Transportation Command anticipates the same schedule through Sept. 30 of the current fiscal year.

Last October, the passenger capacity of the Patriot Express was increased when a 310-seat DC-10 replaced the smaller L-1011 Northwest will be using a 298-seat Airbus A330-300 for the mission, Graham said.

“This is close to what we had with [ATA],” he said. “But 17 less than the 315 passengers than the DC-10 carried.”

The duty-passenger count — those on permanent change of station or temporary-duty orders — is crucial to making the flight “revenue-neutral” for U.S. Transportation Command.

It’s also a necessary stipulation in preserving a huge space-available travel benefit for the military community. The only charge for space-A fliers headed to the United States is a $27.10 transportation fee, or international “head tax.”

Military Air Mobility Command flights, many of which also offer space-available seats on military-owned aircraft, will not be affected by chartered Patriot Express changes and will continue to operate as normal, officials said.

With more than 1,400 daily departures and a fleet of more than 500 planes, the Minneapolis/St. Paul based Northwest is one of the world’s biggest airlines. According to The Associated Press, Northwest may announce a merger with Delta Airlines this week, which would form the world’s largest airline.

For Yokota AMC flight information, call DSN 225-7111. At Kadena, it’s available at DSN 634-2159.

Stars and Stripes Reporter Vince Little contributed to this story.

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