Northwest Airlines

(NWAC)

said it expects to take a noncash charge relating to its pension plans that may exceed $700 million.

The Minnesota-based air carrier said the charge wouldn't affect current earnings or financial covenants in its credit agreements.

Northwest said it expects to record the charge to stockholders' equity on Dec. 31. The size of the charge will depend on plan asset returns and discount rates at year end, it said.

The carrier also said that estimated plan-year 2003 pension expenses are expected to exceed 2002 expenses of $280 million by about $100 million.