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Delta CFO: OK with standalone option

Seattle (AP) - If Delta's consolidation talks with Northwest Airlines Corp. fall apart, the airline isn't committed to finding a replacement deal, said Chief Financial Officer Ed Bastian. Bastian would not say if Delta Air Lines Inc. was prepared to walk away from talks if pilots from both airlines remain deadlocked on seniority issues, or how long the company would give the pilots to hammer out a solution.

He also declined to say whether the airline felt pressure to seal a deal before the merger-friendly Bush administration leaves office.

When asked if Delta had a "Plan B" ready if the Northwest deal fails, Bastian said, "It's not a Plan B, it's a Plan A -- that's our standalone option."

Later, Bastian said the company expects solid growth for the year and that the airline has "a great standalone plan."

He said a potential combination would have to protect its employees' seniority; for pilots, that means first dibs on desirable and higher-paying planes, routes and schedules. The CFO spoke with The Associated Press as Delta took delivery of its first new plane since 2002. Delta said the new Boeing 777-200 LR, slated to fly between New York and Mumbai, will boost revenue by $10 million a year, thanks to added cargo space.

Shares of Delta dipped about 15 cents to $13.93, and Northwest's stock edged down 10 cents to $13.90, in afternoon trading.