In February, Delta made the surprise announcement that CEO Richard Anderson would retire years at age 61, ending the reign of the top leader in the industry’s revival. It was Anderson who orchestrated the successful merger with Northwest in 2008, nurtured the best labor relations in the business, and built a premium brand in skies where a seat is mainly a commodity. His successor––Anderson remains executive chairman––is former president and Anderson’s long-time lieutenant Ed Bastian, who’s sworn to maintain Delta’s industry-leading performance in the top metrics for consumer service, including on-time arrivals and fewest cancellations. Delta boasts the most lucrative mix of traffic among the Big Four because it attracts the highest proportion of business passengers paying premium fares. In the first quarter, for example, its revenues for every seat flown one mile easily topped the figure for of its rivals. Still, Delta’s revenues fell 4% in Q1, hit by flagging demand in Europe and Asia. That’s not stopping Bastian from pursuing Anderson’s long-term strategy of expanding in the foreign with the greatest potential for growth––a pursuit that’s leading Delta to establish a major hub in Shanghai.
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