Maybe the distracted Northwest pilots were too busy comparing the contents of their wallets to land their plane.

The well-publicized gaffe at Northwest Airlines Inc., his company's former longtime partner, gave Bob Daly of U.S. Bancorp an opportunity for a pointed joke Wednesday — and the biggest laugh in the room.

Daly, U.S. Bancorp's senior vice president of retail payment solutions, was discussing its new FlexPerks credit card program during a panel discussion at SourceMedia Inc.'s annual Cards & Payments Loyalty Conference in New York. (U.S. Bancorp introduced FlexPerks to compete with the Northwest card portfolio it lost last year, after Delta Air Lines Inc. bought Northwest and switched the combined card portfolio to American Express Co.)

Northwest more recently wound up in the headlines when two pilots overshot the Minneapolis runway by 150 miles. The pilots explained the incident by saying that they were entirely absorbed by a new computer scheduling system.

But on Wednesday, Daly offered an equally plausible explanation.

"The decision to fight caught some people by surprise," he said of U.S. Bancorp's decision to introduce FlexPerks rather than sell its remaining card accounts to Amex. Daly's delivery was perfectly deadpan as he continued: "Especially at Northwest. The pilots were debating it in the cockpit. For hours."