In an effort to build up its North Atlantic service, airline sources say, Delta has decided to bid for Pan Am's New York gateway, its Frankfurt hub, and various European routes. Delta also wants the Pan Am Shuttle, but will forgo the carrier's Latin American system. It has flatly ruled out the merger proposal that bankrupt Pan Am sought.

Inking a deal is a long way off, though. Pan Am chief Tom Plaskett is in no position to hold out for a merger. But he has vowed that Delta will have to take some Pan Am workers as part of any deal. Meanwhile, Delta may run into demands from the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. that it help with Pan Am's huge unfunded pension liability. And creditors have invited Chicago financier Jay Pritzker to bid. Delta will get first crack at writing Pan Am's final chapter. But the book is far from closed.

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