Posted by Tom on Friday, January 11, 2008
In the last few years, Delta has carried opposing views on mergers: it exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year after successfully fighting off a hostile takeover proposal from US Airways. But soon after leaving bankruptcy, it started exploring its merger options, and has been the target of merger rumors before (such as this past November, with United Airlines). And with a stagnant economy and oil prices at nearly $100 a barrel, mergers might help relieve some of the pressure that the US airline industry is feeling right now.
A Delta-Northwest or Delta-United deal would probably create the world's largest airline (currently American). So which airline could it be? Back in November, Northwest was (and still is) seen as the most likely candidate, because the route structures of the two airlines has less overlap. And Delta CEO Richard Anderson has ties with Northwest, having worked there for 14 years and ultimately rising to the rank of Northwest CEO. But the main problem with a Delta-Northwest tie-up is the fact that two hubs - Delta's Cincinnati and Northwest's Memphis - would probably be shut down, due to their close proximity to each other. This might create trouble from both unions and politicians.
The possibility of a combined Delta-United has been raised before, and United management has been advocating industry consolidation for quite some time. But it will be some time before any merger plans become concrete, and even then, they can still fall apart quite easily. But this time, it appears that the unions - at least at Delta - are more supportive of the merger idea than they have been in the past. Lee Moak, chairman of the Delta pilot's union, said in a letter that “consolidation may indeed be at our door... We do not oppose consolidation, and may even determine that consolidation is desirable.”