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Delta-Northwest pilots approve joint contract

Pilots for Delta Air Lines Inc. and Northwest Airlines Corp. Monday approved a joint contract, helping to pave the way toward the airlines’ planned merger, the carriers said.

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Pilots for Delta Air Lines Inc. and Northwest Airlines Corp. Monday approved a joint contract, helping to pave the way toward the airlines’ planned merger, the carriers said.

Both carriers offer flights out of the Dayton International Airport.

The approval of a joint collective bargaining agreement prior to the closing of the merger of Atlanta-based Delta (NYSE: DAL) and Eagan, Minn.-based Northwest (NYSE: NWA) is a huge step forward for what will likely become the world’s largest airline when the carriers combine. Terms of the contract will be applicable to both pilots groups when the merger closes, which is expected by the end of the year.

“Approval of a joint contract that will cover both pilot groups immediately upon closing of the merger is an historic milestone in creating the world’s premier global airline and we are pleased that pilots from both airlines chose to take this important step to unify the pilot group,” Delta Chief Executive Officer Richard Anderson said in a news release. “Today’s ratification is a testament to the diligent efforts of ALPA’s leadership working together with its members, Delta and Northwest.”

Recently the European Commission approved the carriers’ plans to combine.

The $17.7 billion deal is expected to forge the world’s largest airline and will help the carrier, to be called Delta, fend off soaring jet fuel prices and a weakening economy.

The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents both pilot groups, had worked out a tentative deal in June for a joint contract that will cover about 12,000 pilots at Delta and Northwest. The union had encouraged the pilots to ratify the agreement.

Delta pilots earlier signed a contract with Delta that will give them a pay raise and an equity stake in the merged airline, but that agreement didn’t include the Northwest pilots. Seniority issues, a sticking point for the pilots, haven’t been resolved.

“The work now continues with the difficult task of seniority list integration; we will achieve a fair and equitable seniority list,” Delta pilots union Chairman Captain Lee Moak said in a letter to the carrier’s pilots.

Shareholders will vote Sept. 25 on the merger plan, which the two airlines announced in April.

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