Edward Bastian Restructures Delta Into The “Winningest” Airline

For the seventh-year in a row, the Atlanta-based carrier has topped Business Travel News’ annual airline survey of corporate travel managers and agents – a record winning streak for the industry.

Travel buyers are most enthusiastic over Delta’s willingness to communicate with them. Says one buyer: “Delta really listens to the corporate traveler manager and always looks out for what’s good for all, not just their bottom line.”

Bastian, as CEO, takes “great pride” in the quality of Delta’s sales team, particularly in the way they find a way to get to “yes” no matter how difficult things tend to be.

“It’s a powerful team, and we’re going to continue to invest in them and provide support,” he says. “It’s also the people in the business. The sales folks can’t do the job they do without running the most reliable airline for business travelers in the world…and the quality of that service, whether it’s in the operations or flight teams or maintenance crew.”

Over the past year, Bastian also has led the airline’s formation of global alliances and joint business ventures, earning him a spot on BTN’s 2017 ’25 Most Influential’ list.

“2017 will be our strongest traffic and passenger count in our history, which we’re quite proud of,” he says. “It’s something we’re seeing across all our regions, not just in the U.S. On transatlantic routes, we’re very impressed with how things have rebounded and recovered. The priorities for 2018 might sound a little boring, but it’s doing it the same but even better. The operational performance will be a hallmark of ours, and we have continued investments in that, [including] enhancements to our baggage services.”

Bastian joined Delta in 1998 as vice president, finance and controller and was promoted to senior vice president in 2000. He left Delta in early 2004 to serve as Acuity Brands’ chief financial officer, but returned to Delta six months later to become its CFO and lead Delta through its restructuring.

In 2007, Bastian was appointed to serve as Delta’s president, from where he oversaw the carrier’s commercial and international functions and strengthened Delta’s financial foundation through innovation, debt reduction, revenue growth and bolstering the airline’s global network. He was named CEO in 2016.

His leadership philosophy is based on the “virtuous circle” – “if you take care of your people, they take care of your customers, whose business and loyalty allows you to reward your investors.” Under Bastian’s helm, Delta is striving to be the nation’s most reliable and customer-centric airline, to be the carrier of choice for both business and personal travel.

Indeed, he tells Radiate that he wants to be remembered most as “someone who helped make the company the airline of that next generation.”

Ed Bastian is No. 69 on Chief Executive and RHR International’s CEO1000 Tracker, a ranking of the top 1,000 public/private companies.

Ed Bastian

Home base: Atlanta, GA

Number of employees: 83,756

Additional title/position: Director

Previous positions: President/CFO

Company start date: 1998

Years at company: 19

Became CEO: 2016

Age: 59

Undergraduate studies: B.A., St. Bonaventure University

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