Pawlenty asks to speak with CEOs of NWA and Delta

Plane at gate
A Northwest Airlines plane at the gate at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.
MPR file photo

Gov. Tim Pawlenty said on Thursday he wants to speak with the CEOs of Delta and Northwest airlines to talk about the possibility that they might merge.

Pawlenty wrote to Northwest CEO Doug Steenland and Delta CEO Richard Anderson. The letter said he met with Steenland recently, but it didn't say when. Pawlenty said Thursday he expects Northwest to honor its commitments and keep its headquarters and hub in Minnesota.

"Most airline analysts would tell you that hub is so valuable. I mean it's a very busy, very profitable place," said Pawlenty. "The hub is probably less at risk in terms of activity -- whether it's Northwest or somebody else -- than the fact of keeping the headquarters. So the headquarters is more [interchangeable] in that regard."

Northwest would give up $215 million in financial incentives at the airport between now and 2020 if it moves its headquarters out of Minnesota.

Pawlenty also indicated that additional state assistance might be available to keep the airline's headquarters and hub in Minnesota. The Republican governor didn't offer specifics but said he wanted to signal that he'd be willing to discuss options with the CEOs.

Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said the governor did not discuss merger talks in his recent meeting with Steenland.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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