-- Delta and Northwest's plan to merge would create the world's biggest airline, one with flights from the USA to international destinations throughout Europe and Asia. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions:
Q: Do I have to worry about Delta or Northwest canceling my flight because of the merger?
A: No. Travelers won't see any dramatic changes in operations by either airline in the near term because of the merger. At this point, it's only a proposal. The merger needs approval by government regulators, and that process alone will take months.
Q: What will happen to fares if the merger goes through?
A: Fares have been rising, regardless of a potential merger, because of soaring fuel prices. Whether the proposed merger lifts rates even higher will depend on many factors, such as whether the combination reduces competition on any routes or whether the combined airline reduces capacity elsewhere throughout its network.
Q: Where should customers buy tickets?
A: Continue to book with the airline or agency you use now. Both airlines will maintain their individual websites and toll-free reservation numbers while they await government approval. You can expect changes only once the merger is approved and the airlines begin to switch to a single reservation system. When US Airways and America West merged, the airlines didn't switch to a single reservation system until about two years after the merger announcement.
Q: If I'm holding a Northwest ticket, where should I go when I reach the airport?
A: Proceed as you normally would. The airlines haven't yet merged, so Northwest ticket holders still board at a Northwest gate.
Q: Will the Northwest brand disappear?
A: That's the plan. But phasing out the Northwest name would take years. When US Airways merged with America West, the new airline phased in its new name over two years, beginning with airplane exteriors and signs at airports.
Q: What happens with my frequent-flier miles?
A: Delta SkyMiles and Northwest WorldPerks members won't see immediate changes.
Q: What will a successful merger mean for globe-trotters?
A: More choices. A successful merger will make the new airline's global network the biggest in the USA: Northwest has one of the world's largest Pacific route networks that links seven U.S. cities and 12 Asian destinations via its Tokyo hub. Delta operates more trans-Atlantic flights than any other U.S. airline. Both airlines are already members of the SkyTeam alliance (skyteam.com), which includes 11 airlines serving 841 destinations in 162 countries. Member airlines include Air France-KLM, Korean, China Southern and AeroMexico.
Q: Is one airline better than the other when it comes to operating flights on time?
A: According to the latest Department of Transportation report, Delta operated 76.8% of its flights on time over the past year, while Northwest operated 70.2% on time. That ranked Delta No. 5 and Northwest No. 15 out of 20 airlines measured.
Q: Which airline bumps more passengers off oversold flights against their will?
A: Delta had a worse involuntary bumping rate than Northwest for the last two years.
Q: Which airline is better at getting checked bags to fliers when their flight lands?
A: Northwest. Delta had a higher rate of claims of mishandled bags than Northwest for both 2007 and 2006, according to the DOT.