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Delta president: Merger will promote growth

HEBRON, Ky. - Delta Air Lines' president did some hand-holding Thursday, reassuring anxious employees and local and state officials that its proposed merger with Northwest Airlines will not affect service at Delta's Cincinnati-area hub or hurt regional subsidiary Comair.

Delta President Ed Bastian said at a news conference Thursday at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport that the merger will promote growth, especially internationally. He said that could mean better access to overseas routes from the Cincinnati and northern Kentucky region and the possibility of expansion for Comair.

Delta has said that it was evaluating whether to sell any noncore assets, including Comair.

Bastian, also Delta's chief financial officer, said no decision has been made on whether Comair would remain a subsidiary, be sold or be spun off into a stand-alone company. No matter, it will remain an important part of the Delta Connection network.

'It will still have a long, long-term contract relationship with Delta, and will be a Delta Connection flier for as long as the eye can see,' Bastian said of Comair.

Bastian said that the merger could enhance Comair's role with Delta.

'Northwest regional carriers are smaller in size than Delta's, and this will give us greater opportunity for regional jet flying at Comair,' Bastian said after meeting with Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and other officials.

Beshear said after the meeting that he was cautiously optimistic about the hub's future, taking into account the effects of high fuel prices and the economy on the airline industry.

'I feel good about the commitment that Delta is making to the Commonwealth of Kentucky and to this airport here in northern Kentucky and Cincinnati,' Beshear said.

Ohio Lt. Governor Lee Fisher called discussions with Delta meaningful and constructive.