Doug Steenland's reassurances come as Northwest and Delta are trying to strike a new labor deal with pilots of both carriers. Northwest pilots have said they could support a merger, if they get stock in the airline, and Northwest rolls back deep pay and benefits cuts made in recent years.
Other unions at Northwest say their stance on a merger will also depend on what it means for workers.
But Steenland said their interests won't be forgotten.
"I, the management team and the board of directors will not move forward with a transaction that does not benefit our employees, our customers, our shareholders and the communities we serve," Steenland said. "First and foremost to be considered any merger would have to put our airline in a safe harbor and offer long-term stability and job security for our front-line employees."
Industry observers say a merger could be scuttled if the pilots demand too much money and stock.