updated 1/30/2007 5:19:26 PM ET 2007-01-30T22:19:26

Northwest Airlines Corp. plans to emerge from bankruptcy as an independent carrier and stay that way through 2007, Chief Executive Doug Steenland said Tuesday.

Northwest and other airlines have been the subject of intense merger speculation, and US Airways Group Inc. has offered to buy Delta Air Lines Inc. Northwest has hired a merger consulting firm, but said that was so it could be prepared to respond to merger offers.

But Northwest has no plans to merge either before it exits bankruptcy (expected by June 30) or later this year, Steenland said, speaking to reporters after a breakfast for Twin Cities business leaders. He declined to comment on reports that Northwest has held talks with Delta Air Lines. And he declined to comment on whether Northwest is in merger talks.

Northwest is due to file details of its reorganization plan by Feb. 15. “That business plan and that valuation will be predicated on Northwest being a stand-alone, independent airline,” he said.

Steenland also said Northwest intends to keep its headquarters in the Twin Cities, but added that it would have to be open to a move if that was in the company’s best interest.

Northwest has made deals with most of its unions that cut wages in return for claims against Northwest’s bankruptcy. The union that represents baggage handlers and other ground workers said it got about 86 cents on the dollar when it sold $36 million of its $181 million claim earlier this month, and the union is aiming to distribute checks to workers by Feb. 7.

But flight attendants never ratified an agreement, and the contract imposed by Northwest included no claim against Northwest like the other unions got — a fact Northwest has been pointing out on its employee hotline messages.

On Tuesday Steenland said Northwest still hopes to make a deal with flight attendants, with a bankruptcy claim as an incentive. He declined to comment on whether any talks are planned.

Flight attendants have been fighting for the right to strike over the imposed contract, and are awaiting a decision by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.

Union spokesman Ricky Thornton said nothing has changed with either side’s position.

“Northwest has made no movement from their end, and we have nothing more give,” he said.

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