A term sheet filed in bankruptcy court in December, when Delta and its pilots agreed to temporary pay cuts, says the arbitration panel's decision would be binding on both sides, subject to limited rights to appeal.
The union, however, believes it could still strike if the panel were to reject its contract.
The three members of the panel are Fredric Horowitz, a California labor attorney; Robert Harris, a former law professor who has been a consultant for the government of Bermuda; and Richard Bloch, who sided with the Philadelphia Eagles as arbitrator of their decision to bench star receiver Terrell Owens.
Tom Parsons, president of discount travel Web site Bestfares.com, said that even if travelers don't avoid the troubled airlines, bankruptcy often takes its toll on customer service by employees.
"They're under a lot of stress, and sometimes they push that stress onto the customer," he said. "Customer satisfaction usually drops. The customer is wondering 'Where's my darn bag,' and the employee is wondering 'Where's my darn job?'"
On the Net:
Northwest Airlines: http://www.nwa.com
Delta Air Lines: http://www.delta.com
Northwest Airlines Air Line Pilots Association: http://www.nwaalpa.org/