MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The chief executive of Northwest Airlines says his carrier could benefit from a merger — if it's the right deal.

As the Delta Air Lines Inc. board met to discuss the issue, Northwest Airlines Corp. chief Doug Steenland sent an internal memo to employees Friday saying his airline's board and management team would analyze any deal carefully.

"Most importantly, we will carefully consider the impacts on our own employees and ensure that the outstanding employees of Northwest Airlines are included in this process," he wrote. "The right transaction could be of benefit to our employees, our shareholders and the communities we serve."

Steenland didn't say whether Delta had approached Northwest.

Delta officials were mum on the outcome of that company's board meeting Friday.

According to two people familiar with the situation, Delta's board was expected to be asked to allow formal talks between Delta and Northwest and UAL Corp.'s United Airlines, with the idea that Delta would ultimately choose to combine with one of the two. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.