Northwest CU Launches 'Wings' Brand

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APPLE VALLEY, Minn.-NWA Federal Credit Union has created a new division-Wings Financial FCU-to reach out to all airline employees under the TIPS charter it received in December.

The move was not precipitated by NWAFCU's trademark dispute with its primary sponsor, Northwest Airlines, according to NWAFCU's John Wagner. "It has nothing to do with the lawsuit [brought by Northwest Airlines against the credit union]," he told The Credit Union Journal. "What we have done is created a separate, distinct brand."

Primarily serving employees of Northwest Airlines, the CU's expanded TIPS-based FOM is open to the entire airline industry, but the new brand is decidedly not tied to a specific airline in order to be more welcoming and inclusive of non-Northwest Airlines employees.

"We were finding that other airline employees weren't comfortable doing business with NWA; it felt like being in business with a competitor," said Wagner. "Wings Financial Federal Credit Union is a distinct but complementary brand."

All members will be able to use both NWAFCU- and WFFCU-branded facilities interchangeably. The first Wings facility opened at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport early last week.

The credit union has also had some good news in its ongoing dispute with Northwest Airlines and will be able to continue leasing space from the airline. In April 2003, Northwest asked the $1.5-billion CU to pay a $6-million naming rights fee in order to retain its Northwest-related name and the use of Northwest branding as well as the ability to continue leasing office and ATM space on Northwest property.

When NWAFCU said it could not afford to pay the fee, the airline said it would evict the CU from airline facilities, before relenting and agreeing to allow each of the various leases to run their various terms before the CU would have to move. But in just the last few weeks, Wagner said, Northwest Airlines has decided to continue leasing space to the credit union, even though the trademark dispute is still ongoing.

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