Leaders of the Northwest Airlines chapter of the US Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) have endorsed the carrier's proposed partnership with Continental Airlines, which includes the option of a 14% shareholding.

After stalling on the initial proposals, which were first mooted in early December, ALPA has given its blessing for Northwest's management to pursue the matter after meeting with financial and legal advisors, who said that it "-could be beneficial to Northwest and its pilots if appropriate job protections can be negotiated".

ALPA says that it will explain the deal to 6,000 rank-and-file members during a meeting scheduled for later this month. Meanwhile, the pilot leadership voted to tie the Continental talks to contract negotiations which have been continuing for 17 months as Northwest workers seek re-instatement of conditions forfeited when the airline was struggling to emerge from near-bankruptcy.

The partnership talks include extensive codesharing between the two airlines, and could include Northwest taking taking over the 14% stake in Continental owned by entrepreneur David Bonderman of Air Partners in a $450 million stock deal.

Any agreement requires approval by pilots, who own 11.5% of Northwest and have a board seat, but they rejected the move when first mooted in early December, saying that they needed more time. Talks were called off on 11 December as pilots considered the proposals. Northwest says that the talks can resume, but gives no date.

Source: Flight International