Northwest and Delta Merger Talks Stalled

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With talks stalled between pilots at Northwest and Delta airlines, the Northwest pilots have laid out some of the key problems that are holding up a potential airline combination.

As expected, seniority has been a huge obstacle. Pilots with more seniority bid first for desirable planes and routes. Lower-ranked pilots are the first to be laid off.

Leaders of Northwest Airlines pilots based in Seattle issued a written update today that did not name Delta or any other airline.

The update from the Seattle pilots said the largest difference between Northwest's pilots "and other potential pilot groups'' is that Northwest has nearly 1,000 aviators who will turn 60 within five years, nearly a quarter of its 4,800 pilots. And although mandatory pilot retirement age is about to change to age 65, Northwest pilots survived bankruptcy with their age-60 pension largely intact. And many are expected to retire then rather than waiting until 65.

If Northwest doesn't merge, younger pilots could expect to move up quickly. But that won't be the case if Northwest pilots are mixed into the younger workforce of a consolidated airline, which would number roughly 12,000 pilots if Delta and Northwest combine.

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