Delta Air Lines announced today that CEO Richard Anderson will retire (WSJ.com, subscription required) effective May 2. Anderson will be succeeded by current president Ed Bastian. Glen Hauenstein, executive vice president and chief revenue officer, will move into the president's role.
Anderson's departure marks the end of a very successful tenure which has seen Delta become a financially and operationally efficient airline. Anderson took over as CEO in September 2007 after Delta emerged from bankruptcy. He lead the airline through its merger with Northwest Airlines and made operational improvements that has seen Delta consistently ranked near the top of on-time performance in recent years. Under Anderson's leadership Delta "stitched together a global route network by taking stakes in foreign airlines, purchased an oil refinery and wooed customers with its sunny, nonunion airport agents and flight attendants and reliable service."
Anderson is not without his detractors, however. He took a very strong and, in some quarters, controversial position against the Middle East big three airlines - Emirates, Etihad and Qatar - and their alleged violations of the Open Skies Agreement. In the points and miles community, Delta's drive to sell a larger percentage of premium cabin seats, thereby making fewer such seats available for award travel and elite frequent flyer upgrades, has resulted in consternation by some. Also, significant changes in the SkyMIles frequent flyer program, including revenue-based frequent flyer mile accruals and higher points requirements for award travel has resulted in some blogs becoming little more than forums for continual whining about the airline.
These controversies notwithstanding, there is little argument that Delta is a far stronger and more successful airline as Anderson departs than when he arrived. Delta continues to post strong profits and sports the highest market capitalization of any U.S. airline. There is no doubt that Ed Bastian has big shoes to fill, but the foundation for continued success is in place. As an Atlantan with a soft spot for Delta, I thank Richard Anderson for all he has done for Delta Air Lines and wish him well in his retirement. I also warmly welcome Ed Bastian to the helm and am excited for ever greater things for "Atlanta's Hometown Airline!"