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Airline merger in holding pattern

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A potential merger at Delta and Northwest airlines is on hold while pilots try to work out a seniority agreement. The proposed merger is complicated by the fact that Atlanta-based Delta has a younger work force than Northwest, which is based in Eagan.

The pilots’ union at Delta rejected arbitration in March, telling company executives they were unable to agree with Northwest pilots on seniority, and suggesting that talks were over.

Disputes over how to merge seniority lists put a 2005 merger attempt between US Airways and America West into terminal gridlock, bringing out what some have called “fratricidal tendencies” among pilots. Delta and Northwest no doubt had that fiasco in mind when they asked pilots to strike a seniority agreement before making any merger announcements.

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