It’s Thursday, and there’s still no announcement that Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines will merge. Frustrating for shareholders and airline beat reporters? Yes. But a Godsend for air travelers, who would almost certainly benefit from a more competitive airline industry.
The unlikely heroes are airline pilots who reportedly have misgivings about this corporate marriage.
People close to the Delta-Northwest talks said the pilots unions have agreed on a comprehensive joint contract, but cannot agree to how seniority for the 12,000 pilots would work under a combined carrier. The people asked not to be named because of the sensitive stage of the talks.
If they can’t come to terms, it would’t necessarily stop the merger. But it would make it far more difficult.
Pilots at US Airways and America West waited until after the 2005 announcement that the airlines would combine to try to hammer out a seniority and joint contract accord. Nearly three years later, no joint pilot contract has been reached.
The pilots on both sides know how difficult the integration of US Airways and America West has been, and they are understandably reluctant to go into a merger without a deal.
But something tells me there’s more at stake than seniority issues. The pilots must also be pondering their future under a merged Delta-Northwest. They may not like what they see.
Neither will passengers. Combining Delta-Northwest will be bad for customers. Period.
Delta, Northwest and the other air carriers that are so eager to mate, have convinced the public in general — and the business press in particular — that they will go under if they have to continue flying solo.
I’m not convinced that the airlines will fail on their own. Only that if they’re allowed to merge, they will fail us.