Attendants Want Raise if NWA Merges

Northwest Airlines' flight attendants became the latest to weigh in Tuesday on what they want in return for their support of a merger deal.

Their conditions were released as Northwest's pilots said that a deal might be near.

The flight attendants want job protections, an equity stake in the merged company and a contract "that provides substantial improvements in compensation and work rules to the current flight attendant agreement."

The statement released Tuesday also asks that Eagan-based Northwest maintain a strong hub presence at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and continue to plan for future growth.

"A merger agreement that addresses the needs of front-line employees will help to ensure a quality product and service that meets the needs of our customers," said a statement from the Association of Flight Attendants, the union that represents those Northwest employees.

Last week, reports citing unnamed sources said Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines was going to start formal merger talks with both Northwest and United Airlines, intending to pick one as a partner.

Northwest declined Tuesday to comment on the flight attendants' demands or any merger-related topics.

Delta will release its fourth-quarter earnings today. Executives are likely to hear some questions about consolidation in a conference call, but it's uncertain if they'll provide any details of where they are in any merger talks.

Flight attendants and other Northwest employees took pay cuts of 20 percent or more as the airline moved through bankruptcy a year ago.

A merger with Delta is of particular concern for Northwest's flight attendants as Delta's attendants aren't unionized.

In any merger, if the AFA-unionized flight attendants in the new company make up 35 percent or more of the merged work group, an election is triggered, said Corey Caldwell, an AFA spokeswoman.

Delta has about 14,000 flight attendants and Northwest's unionized work force would meet the threshold for an election, she said. Northwest has about 8,300 flight attendants, though that number is in flux. Some 450 are taking buyouts this month. The airline has said it's been stepping up hiring and that the exit of all those attendants won't hurt service.

The AFA also is trying to organize Delta's flight attendants, an effort that's been going on for about a year.

If the two airlines do merge, the integration of the two flight attendant work forces would use the date of hire to determine seniority, Caldwell said.