Delta Air Lines (DAL), fighting to avoid bankruptcy, Wednesday said plans to cut between 6,000 and 6,900 jobs during the next 18 months, cut pay by 10 percent across the board, and reduce employee benefits. Delta has more than 60,000 employees, according to its Web site.

The company also said it won approval to bypass shareholders to issue up to 75 million common shares, sparking a 5 percent drop in its stock.

The No. 3 U.S. airline, which also gave more details about its restructuring plan including job cuts, said the New York Stock Exchange (search) will let Delta use an exception in its shareholder approval policy to allow the issuance.

Atlanta-based Delta said any delay could "seriously jeopardize" its financial viability.

"It is (making) steady progress to providing provisions to help the company stay out of bankruptcy," said Jim Corridore, an airline analyst at Standard & Poor's.

"If they can get approval to issue shares, for the job cuts, to cut pay, they're making progress, and with oil prices backing down, there's hope that there's light at the end of the tunnel," Corridore said.

As part of a new employee incentive program, Delta said 63 million shares would be issued upon the exercise of stock options to about 57,000 employees. he airline has about 125.6 million shares outstanding.

The company will also issue up to 12 million shares to debtholders who agree to defer debt maturing in the near term and to aircraft lessors who participate in Delta's aircraft financing concession program.

"It's going to dilute the current stockholders, but the current stock would be worthless if they go into bankruptcy," said Ray Neidl, an analyst at Calyon Securities.

The carrier will notify shareholders by mail of the plan without seeking their approval.

Delta has been trying to cut costs in a fight to avoid bankruptcy. Like other airlines, it has been plagued by high costs, weak revenues, skyrocketing fuel prices and stiff competition from discount carriers.

Shares of Delta slipped 32 cents to $5.93 on the New York Stock Exchange (search).