Richard Anderson is chief executive officer of Delta. 051012andersoned

MIAMI — Last May 1 was the last day of Richard Anderson as Delta Air Lines CEO. Under Anderson’s leadership, Delta has become an operation and profit making machine that is the envy of the industry worldwide.

Anderson’s moves reshaped the industry. Considered the mastermind behind the merger between Northwest Airlines and Delta, he opened the path to a massive consolidation in the U.S. airline industry—and to an unusual period of high profits. Just last year, the carrier booked an annual profit of $4.5 billion.

Richard Anderson, Delta Air Lines CEO. (Credits: Delta Air Lines)
Richard Anderson, Delta Air Lines CEO. (Credits: Delta Air Lines)

During the dinner event at the Delta Media Day, Joanne Smith, Executive Vice president and Chief Human Resources Officer, told two stories about Richard Anderson we would like to share.

Rules of the Road

“Prior to the fun safety videos we now play, there was that welcome aboard video from Richard saying that ‘I get to C. E. Woolman’s desk everyday.’ He took C. E. Woolman’s desk from the museum and brought it into his office, and when he opened up the desk drawer, there was a book given to all Delta employees back in the 1940s. He read through it, and he said, ‘these are the values and the behaviors from way back then that we want to ensure we still instill today.’ So, he took that book and called it ‘Rules of the Road.’ He also added his own personal garage rules that he instilled in his own family, and it is distributed to all employees and new employees. So, we have had the Rules of the Road since 2007.”

“Keep Your Deals”

“Keep your deals” is one of Anderson’s garage rules that was added to the “Rules of the Road.” Smith recalled that “the day after Richard announced his retirement, he was asked at a leadership meeting if he could think of the most challenging moment in his career. Anderson instantly recalled that in 2008, Delta made a commitment to its employees that it would do base pay increases and have profit sharing to lead the industry on total compensation for all employee groups which was our stated goal. Coming out of that difficult time in 2008, oil spiked at $147 a barrel; the most difficult decisions was when he went home to his wife Sue and said ‘we have to do a pay raise,’ even though oil was so high and that it would be hard to afford it with oil so high. He did not know how he was going to do it, but he worked hard to live up to that commitment.”

Ed Bastian, new Delta Air Lines CEO (Credits: Delta Air Lines)
Ed Bastian, new Delta Air Lines CEO (Credits: Delta Air Lines)

Immediately after Richard Anderson’s retirement, Ed Bastian has now assumed the role of CEO.