Delta Pilots Pension Plan in Peril

The pension plan for Delta Air Lines' pilots probably will be terminated before October to avoid more cash drains from pilot retirements, said an actuary for Delta Air Lines' pilots union.

Parrack estimated that Delta would save $1.6 billion in cash outlays over four years if the pilots' pension plan is taken over by the PBGC, and would boost its financial results in accounting terms by more than $400 million during the same period.

He said Delta stopped contributing to the underfunded pension trust after filing for bankruptcy six months ago, skipping a $146 million contribution to the plan last October and two contributions since.

Hicks, the Delta spokesman, said halting contributions was "the least significant reason" for the pension plan's underfunding. He said a bigger impact came from the pension plan's earlier investment losses, pilot retirements and changes in interest rates that caused the plan's liabilities to grow.

Separately Monday, Delta asked a bankruptcy judge to allow the carrier to void roughly 93 million stock options held by 70,000 current and former employees and directors. The company said the options, if exercised, would provide little or no real value, making the $305,000 a year it costs the airline to maintain, account for and administer the benefit an unnecessary burden on Delta.

Russell Grantham writes for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. E-mail: rgrantham AT The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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