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Delta CEO Touts Company ‘Revival’

Delta CEO Touts Company ‘Revival’

Delta CEO Richard Anderson see his airline through rose-colored glasses.

In an interview with the Associated Press, he boasts of the company’s current run of annual profits, its low complaint rates for baggage-handling, its on-time performance, and its industry-leading inflight Wi-Fi adoption.

Indeed, in operational and financial terms, Delta has come a long way.

But the company hasn’t fared nearly so well when it comes to pleasing its customers. A key barometer in that regard is its management of SkyMiles, the program designed to recognize and reward its best customers.

The airline has consistently ranked among the stingiest when it comes to award-seat availability.

And the recent announcement of upcoming changes to mileage-earning policies for key airline partners not only devalues the SkyMiles mileage program but undermines the SkyTeam alliance itself.

Not surprisingly, the interview steered well clear of anything SkyMiles-related.

Interview Highlights

  • Anderson credits industry consolidation with much of Delta’s recent financial strength, and predicts more to come. “We think consolidation is still in the relatively early stages, with more to come that will provide more stability.”
  • He sees PreCheck as the solution to security-screening bottlenecks. “(W)e need to let people know that you’re never going to have more than a 15-minute wait in security. One of the key ways to get there is with PreCheck (the government’s pre-screening system). Our ultimate goal needs to be 75 to 80 percent PreCheck.”
  • Inflight cellphone service? “No. Our customer survey data tell us that consumers do not want that on the airplane.”
  • When flying on business domestically, Anderson sits in coach. “I was in row 28 coming up here. I wear my badge. And I fly in coach.”
  • On buying an oil refinery: “We talked about oil companies, we talked about refineries. It took us a couple of years, but then this one came on the market for the price of a 787.”
  • What he’s learned from his years in management. “It’s probably just a mishmash of a lot of little rules, right? You know, always return your phone calls promptly, always be on time for your meetings. Always be the person that people look forward to go into a meeting with. Don’t ask people to do things you wouldn’t do. Be kind to people.”

Reader Reality Check

What would you ask Richard Anderson?

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  • Barry Moss

    I’ve specifically avoided flying Delta (although I used to fly NWA) because of the award seat availability issue. Why should I fly on an airline where the loyalty program is worthless when there are so many other alternatives and pricing is similar?

  • Edgar Numrich

    Most every airline has “had their turn” with me over many years, including that Delta was once a strong favorite for a long time. That said, it would take a lot to win me back; I don’t think they can (or would want to) do it.

  • BurbankBurner

    Delta used to be my first choice airline, before the Northwest purchase. But Skypesos is by far the worst of the award programs and I still cannot get an entry level seat to anywhere. So I stopped flying them entirely.

  • Andrew

    Airport check in personnel have become surley. Flight crews inconsistent, less helpful (in Business, no less). I’m a million miler that will use other carriers whenever possible now. Upgrade availability has become a (bad) joke.

  • Kathleen Clair

    When is he going to fix the poor award seat availability? You are dumping on your best customers!

  • Nick Aster

    It’s great that they’re profitable, but when a company sees financial profit is the only thing that matters, it’s easy for other things to fall by the wayside. We’ll see how long I last as a loyal Delta customer!