Seniority issue could be expensive for Delta

A Delta Air Lines plane takes off from Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport April 15, 2008, in Atlanta.
Barry Williams/Getty Images

Delta Air Lines may be in the costly position of hiring employees it ideally wouldn't need, spending precious cash it wants to preserve in the uncertain economy.

That's because two key work groups haven't resolved seniority issues resulting from the combination of Delta and Northwest Airlines.

Seniority determines schedules, vacations, work rules and the way employees bid for flights.

Pilots have a merged seniority list and joint contract, but flight attendants and ground workers, such as baggage handlers and reservation agents, don't.

Next month, Delta begins flying its planes in Northwest markets and vice versa. However, flight attendants from one carrier can't work on the other's planes because of outstanding seniority and union representation issues.

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