Judge OKs Delta Air Lines' bankruptcy emergence plan

NEW YORK - It took almost two years and 6,000 job cuts, but Delta Air Lines on Wednesday at last received the approval it sought to emerge from bankruptcy protection as an independent company.

On Monday, it plans to be reborn, with new shares, a restructured fleet and lower labor costs, but without the protection from creditors that the court provided.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc. will again have to answer to shareholders, who likely will want to see results quickly.

Delta estimates it will be worth $9.4 billion to $12 billion. During its reorganization, the nation's third-largest airline slashed $3 billion in annual costs.

More than 95 percent of creditors voted to endorse the plan for Delta to leave bankruptcy as a stand-alone carrier. That plan had been put in jeopardy by a $9.8 billion hostile takeover bid launched last fall by Tempe, Ariz.-based US Airways Group Inc. Delta successfully persuaded creditors to back its blueprint to emerge from bankruptcy and reject the buyout offer.

Airline industry analyst Robert Mann said Delta was not likely to try to combine with another carrier in the near term. Industry watchers have speculated that Delta might join with Northwest Airlines Inc., which filed for bankruptcy the same day Delta did.

Mann said an acquisition was less likely outside of bankruptcy.

''That sense of urgency has passed, not because it really has, but because the perception is that we've dodged that bullet,'' Mann said. ''I think it's a decidedly positive event for Delta.''

He said Delta's success depends on its ability to grow its international routes, and that its expansion was by no means guaranteed. The international air travel marketplace is increasingly competitive, especially given the possibility of more competition on routes across the Atlantic and to China.