Delta Air Lines Inc. and Northwest Airlines Corp. "continue to be responsible under the law for making their pension contributions," Bradley Belt, PBGC executive director, said in a statement today. The two airlines, which both filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection late Wednesday, "are required to make minimum pension contributions under ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code," according to the statement.
"Neither filing for Chapter 11 nor missing contributions means that we have initiated the process" to terminate pension plans or that the airline's qualified plans stop paying monthly benefits, said a statement issued by officials at Atlanta-based Delta. Northwest, Eagan, Minn., did not have a response to the PBGC statement by press time, said Kristin Heinmets, spokeswoman.
The PBGC estimates Delta has $6.9 billion in pension assets and $17.5 billion in pension liabilities, while Northwest has $5.8 billion in plan assets and $11.5 billion in liabilities. The PBGC estimated it would be responsible for $8.4 billion and $2.8 billion of the underfunding for Delta and Northwest, respectively.