NEW YORK - A Delta Air Lines Inc. executive said yesterday that he understood why other carriers were hesitant to combine in the current economic and high-fuel-price environment, but he insisted his company had no plans to walk away from its proposed acquisition of Northwest Airlines Corp.
His comments come four days after United Airlines and US Airways Group Inc., which transports two-thirds of passengers at Philadelphia International Airport, announced an end to their merger talks.
The Delta executive, Ed Bastian, president and chief financial officer, also said that his airline likely would be forced to announce more domestic capacity cuts to deal with record fuel prices, but that it did not plan to announce any further job cuts.
After the Atlanta carrier's sparsely attended annual meeting of shareholders - its first since 2005 - Bastian said his company would make the same decision now as it did in mid-April, when it announced its proposal to combine with Northwest.
"As oil continues its rise, I'm not surprised people are pausing," Bastian said of other carriers' recent decisions not to proceed with combination talks.
But asked if Delta planned to pause and perhaps walk away from the Northwest deal to preserve cash, Bastian said, "I don't see that happening. No."
Besides the end of talks involving US Airways and United, Continental Airlines Inc. has said it would remain a stand-alone carrier.
Delta officials insist the cost savings, productivity improvements and network enhancements anticipated from acquiring Northwest, based in Eagan, Minn., provides more than enough incentive to complete the deal.
Bastian suggested that Delta wanted to "move quicker" to complete its acquisition of Northwest. However, he did not provide an updated time frame, saying that Delta's previous statement that it expected to complete the deal by the end of the year would stand.
On the operations side, Bastian said, "there will be more pruning" in terms of domestic capacity cuts. He did not provide a new goal, though he said that further capacity cuts would be smaller than those previously announced.
Asked if there would be further job cuts beyond the 3,000 Delta recently said it would shed, Bastian said bluntly, "No. That's not the plan."