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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?

This article originally appeared on

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