The idea was raised by the Eagan, Minnesota-based airline's CEO Doug Steenland in Japan last week, as a possible route for one of the new Boeing 787 planes the airline will receive in 2009. He also discussed reviving the New York to Tokyo flight canceled in 2005 as the airline entered bankruptcy protection.
"Mr. Steenland was talking about how Northwest might utilize the 787," said Northwest spokesman Jim Herlihy. "It's more than a year away, and there will be a lot of discussion between now and then."
Memphis business leaders say they are pushing for the move to link local commerce with the Asian economy, but it's still up in the air.
"This is not a done deal," said John Moore, president and chief executive of the Memphis Regional Chamber of Commerce and former Northwest executive.
The only current trans-Atlantic passenger flight from the Mid-South region is Northwest-KLM's daily flight direct to Amsterdam. Trans-Pacific flights must go through other hubs.
Northwest offers connections to 17 other Asian cities from its Tokyo hub, so that flight would have more business potential, said Michael Boyd, head of The Boyd Group of aviation consultants outside Denver.
"This is more important than the Amsterdam flight because Tokyo is where the growth is," he said.
About 160 Japanese companies, including Nissan Motor, have operations in Tennessee, and not including locations in Arkansas and Mississippi.