Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he is open to restructuring Northwest Airlines’ airport agreements that include support on a $245 million bond issue if the airline keeps a major presence at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in the event of a merger with Delta Air Lines, according to published reports.

Northwest is based is Eagan, just outside the Twin Cities, and represents a majority of flights through the Twin Cities airport. Delta is based in Atlanta.

A potential merger advanced this week amid a report in the Detroit News yesterday that the leaders of the airlines’ unions that represent pilots have agreed to a work integration plan in the event of a merger. The agreement clears what was considered a significant hurdle to a possible merger that would create the world’s largest airline. The article quotes sources close the matter.

Separately, Pawlenty said at a news conference with the Legislature’s leaders on the matter that his goal is to preserve Northwest jobs in the region and to maintain the carrier’s hub at the airport. He said he remained open to renegotiating the airline’s various agreements with the Minnesota Metropolitan Airports Commission, but did not elaborate.

Under its agreements, Northwest must keep its headquarters in Minnesota and its hub or immediately repay $245 million of bonds supported by the commission. Northwest executive Ben Hirst said in a statement that the carrier’s objective is to “ensure the long-term survival of the Minneapolis-St. Paul hub and the Minnesota jobs we support.” The airline employs more than 11,000 in the state.

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