Northwest Requests Pension Payment Deferral

December 24, 2003 ( - Northwest Airlines Corp. is asking the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for a 2004 pension contribution deferral.

The St. Paul, Minnesota-based airline is asking the IRS for permission to make its 2004 plan year contributions over a five-year period, rather the current 18-month schedule.   The request is being made in the face of what Northwestern sees as continued ” substantial challenges” in the airline’s quest to maintain liquidity, according to a news release.

As of September 30, Northwest posted $3.95 billion in pension and post-retirement liabilities, and said it expected 2003 expenses of $450 million for its pension plans, with a similar amount in 2004, Dow Jones reported.

The carrier made a similar request in November 2002 regarding 2003 payments.   Also, similar to the 2002 request, Northwest sought permission from the US Department of Labor (DoL) to exceed certain limits on the amount of employer securities held in pension plans. The carrier wants to use the stock of its Pinnacle Airlines subsidiary as opposed to cash to fund three Northwest defined benefit pension plans (See DoL Hearing to Examine NW Airlines Stock Contribution ).   The DoL approved the move earlier this year (See  DoL Gives Thumbs Up to NWA Stock Pension Contribution ).