US Airways says its bid for Delta is ‘just better. For everyone’
ATLANTA – US Airways Group Inc. on Tuesday sought to win employee support for its $8.8 billion bid to take over Delta Air Lines Inc. and crush Delta’s hopes of emerging from bankruptcy as a stand-alone carrier.”Our proposal is just better. For everyone,” the Tempe, Ariz.-based company said in a bluntly worded newsletter sent to employees.The newsletter, which resembled a flier, added, “We don’t believe that Delta’s claim that their standalone plan will somehow provide more value holds water.”But US Airways faces skepticism over the deal from some of its own employees. More than 200 of the pilots belonging to the Air Line Pilots Association picketed at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Thursday, demanding the airline finish contract negotiations with them before it moves to acquire rival Delta.The publication also comes as Atlanta-based Delta has stepped up its keep-Delta-on-its-own campaign in recent days with a full-page newspaper ad, media interviews granted by its chief financial officer and an e-mail to frequent fliers in which it seemed dismissive of US Airways’ unsolicited offer.No other bids for Delta have been made by other airlines since US Airways’ offer, Delta CFO Ed Bastian said Tuesday during a stop in New Orleans.Bastian also said the reason the US Airways proposal has attracted so much attention “is because it’s not been compared with anything, but we feel our plan will be much more satisfying for our community.”Delta, which has been in bankruptcy protection since September 2005, plans to file its reorganization plan next month.In a memo to fellow pilots Tuesday, the executive committee chairman of the Delta pilots union, Lee Moak, issued a strong rebuke of US Airways’ proposal, saying, “Should this merger be as misguided and as poor an idea as I currently believe it to be, then I will deploy every available resource to stop it.” He added that the union, after a heated battle with Delta management over pay cuts, now finds itself “in the unusual, but not unprecedented, position of being on common ground with our management as our company comes under assault.”In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday, Bastian said Delta is telling creditors that it believes its stand-alone plan is “far superior” to US Airways’ hostile bid issued last Wednesday to buy the company and create the nation’s largest carrier. Delta, which has been in bankruptcy since September 2005, plans to file its reorganization plan next month.On Monday, Delta ran a full-page ad in its hometown newspaper reiterating its desire to keep flying solo. That night the company sent an e-mail to frequent fliers telling them it is concerned that the US Airways offer “would not be in the best interest of our many stakeholders including our customers, employees, travel partners, and the communities we serve.”US Airways is still trying to set up a formal meeting with Delta’s creditors, spokesman Phil Gee said Tuesday. Adding to the uncertainty surrounding the deal, Gee said the airline still has not decided where a combined US Airways-Delta would be based. Regulatory hurdles also would not to be overcome.US Airways said in its newsletter to employees Tuesday that the real question people should be asking is what provides the most value to Delta’s creditors.”Delta’s standalone plan – no matter how good it may be – cannot possibly offer an expanded route network, more destinations and a better frequent flier program,” US Airways said.Meanwhile, the chief executive of Houston-based Continental Airlines Inc. says his company would consider a merger to remain competitive if the industry continues to consolidate.In a message to employees Friday, Continental chief Larry Kellner told employees the airline wants to remain independent and continue to grow.”However, if the landscape of the U.S. airline industry does indeed change, we’ll do what we need to do to act in the best interests of you, our customers, our shareholders and the communities we serve,” Kellner said in the message released by the airline, the nation’s fourth-largest carrier.Speculation that United Airlines parent UAL Corp. might make a play for Continental or Delta as a merger partner has intensified since US Airways’ unsolicited bid for Delta.Asked about a possible bid for Delta or Continental, United spokeswoman Jean Medina said Tuesday the company does not comment on rumors or speculation. —Associated Press Writer Chevel Johnson in New Orleans and AP Business Writers John Porretto in Houston and Dave Carpenter in Chicago contributed to this report.