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Delta Air Lines emerges from bankruptcy

The airline shed billions in costs over 191/2 months. Its board now will select a new CEO.

ATLANTA - Delta Air Lines Inc. emerged from bankruptcy protection yesterday after a 191/2-month reorganization in which it shed billions of dollars in costs and rebuffed a takeover bid.

The board of directors of the Atlanta company now turns its attention to picking a chief executive officer to replace the departing Gerald Grinstein and deciding whether to sell or spin off its regional feeder carrier, Comair.

Grinstein, 74, will step down once a successor is named.

The top internal candidates are chief financial officer Ed Bastian and chief operating officer James Whitehurst. "The important thing is it be an internal person," Bastian said. No external candidates have been mentioned.

As for Comair, which also emerged from bankruptcy yesterday, senior Delta executives said there had been no timetable set on deciding whether to shed it.

Also yesterday, Delta, the nation's third-largest carrier, unveiled plans for a new paint job for its planes, featuring the company's three-dimensional red logo flying across a blue background. The new logo, to be phased in, will appear on more than 900 Delta and Delta Connection planes, at airports and on Delta advertising. The primary color of the new logo is a solid red, rather than the familiar red-and-blue color scheme.

Ray Neidl, an airline analyst with Calyon Securities Inc., of New York, credited Delta for cutting its cost structure while in bankruptcy and for laying out a business plan for the future, after having suffered $18.6 billion in losses in the last six years.

Delta entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Sept. 14, 2005, amid high fuel prices and the burdens of high labor and pension expenses. It significantly reduced its labor and pension costs while under court protection. As of March 31, the company had 52,260 full-time employees, according to a regulatory filing Friday.

Delta had run up more than $127.9 million in bills for fees and expenses for its lawyers, consultants and advisers through the end of January. The final tally could be millions more.

Delta underwent a lot of changes while in bankruptcy, making cost and job cuts, restructuring its fleet, and focusing more on international service. The airline terminated its pilots' defined-benefit pension plan.

The carrier also defeated an unsolicited $9.8 billion takeover bid by US Airways Group Inc.

Delta's existing stock was canceled yesterday. Shares of new stock will be issued to creditors and begin trading publicly on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday under the ticker symbol DAL.

Delta: Time Line of Key Events

June 17, 1929: Delta starts passenger flights - from Dallas to Jackson, Miss.

Aug. 1, 1972: Northeast Airlines merges with Delta.

April 1, 1987: Delta merges with Western Airlines.

Nov. 1, 1991: Delta buys substantially all of Pan American World Airways' transatlantic routes and the Pan Am Shuttle.

2001-03: Delta cuts 16,000 jobs, or 21 percent of its staff.

Sept. 8, 2004: Delta says it will cut up to 7,000 more jobs.

Oct. 27, 2004: The airline and its pilots reach a tentative agreement on pay cuts and other concessions that will save the airline $1 billion a year.

Jan. 20, 2005: Delta blames persistently high fuel prices for a $2.2 billion 2004 fourth-quarter loss - its 15th quarterly loss in 16 quarters.

Sept. 14, 2005: The airline files for bankruptcy.

Sept. 2, 2006: The Delta pilots' defined-benefit pension plan is terminated.

Yesterday: The carrier emerges from bankruptcy.

SOURCE: Associated Press