CEO Delta Air Lines
As CEO of Delta Air Lines, Ed Bastian leads a team of 75,000 global professionals that is building the world’s premier international airline, powered by a people-driven, customer-focused culture and spirit of innovation.
Under Ed’s leadership, Delta is transforming the air travel experience with generational investments in technology, aircraft, airport facilities and, most importantly, Delta’s employees worldwide. A 20-year Delta veteran, Ed has been a critical leader in Delta’s long-term strategy and champion of putting Delta’s shared values of honesty, integrity, respect, perseverance and servant leadership at the core of every decision.
Since being named Delta’s CEO in May 2016, Ed has expanded Delta’s leading position as the world’s most reliable airline while growing its global footprint and enhancing the customer experience in the air and on the ground. During his tenure as CEO, Delta has become the world’s most awarded airline, having been named the Wall Street Journal’s top U.S. airline; Fortune’s most admired airline worldwide; the most on-time global airline by FlightGlobal; a Glassdoor Employee’s Choice company and more. Delta has returned to sustained profitability, regaining its investment-grade credit rating with all three major ratings agencies and paying out more than $1 billion in profit-sharing to employees every year over the past four years. In 2018, Fortune magazine named Ed among “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders,” and in 2019, he was elected to the membership of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Ed’s commitment to putting the health and safety of employees and customers first amid the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic has resulted in the airline’s industry-leading Delta CareStandard, enabling a cleaner, more reliable and safe travel experience for the long term.
When asked to sum up his job in five words, Ed’s response is: “Taking care of our people.” The answer reflects his leadership philosophy, which 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.
Ed joined Delta in 1998 as Vice President – Finance and Controller and was promoted to Senior Vice President in 2000. He left Delta in 2005 and became Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Acuity Brands. He returned to Delta six months later to become Chief Financial Officer, and in 2007 was appointed to serve as Delta’s President.
Prior to joining Delta, Ed held senior finance positions at Frito-Lay International and Pepsi-Cola International. Ed started his career with Price Waterhouse where he became an audit partner in its New York practice.
Ed grew up in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and graduated from St. Bonaventure University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. He lives in Atlanta, and is deeply involved in his faith, family and community.
Ed Bastian - Why We Chose Him:
This guy takes the cake for being compassionate, caring and dedicated to his employees and customers, even going as far as quitting the company over it. After working his way up to Senior Vice President at Delta in 2005, Bastian resigned rather than compromise his principles. Delta was facing difficult financial times, and Bastian made it crystal clear the company should file for bankruptcy protection rather than lay people off. Management disagreed , however, opting for the “bottom line - thinking ” that has ruined a whole lot of capitalism and companies over the last few decades in America, deciding to lay off employees and slash expenses by reducing quality of service, and a whole lot of other bad ideas. So Bastian left. But in a victory for Social Capital and Delta, six months later he returned to the airline to serve as Chief Financial Officer, at the request of then-Delta CEO Gerald Grinstein, who agreed to put his plan into action.
Mr. Bastain may not have founded Delta Air Lines but he brought it back to life with integrity after his return, restructuring it and returning the company to profitability and respectability by putting his employees and his customers first. And that’s exactly what he has continued to do in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
When the pandemic devastated the airline industry earlier this year, Delta was one of the first to commit to blocking middle seats and to make sure they test 100% of their employees for COVID-19, thanks to relationships with Mayo Clinic, Quest Diagnostics and CVS Health.
After offering early retirement and departure packages for flight attendants and frontline employees that 20% of Delta’s workers accepted, they committed to not involuntarily furloughing ANY flight attendants or ground-based frontline employees when the CARES Act expires. And though Bastian said they may have to lay off some pilots, he’s even working to keep them around as long as possible, recently agreeing to delay a decision on pilot furloughs until Nov. 1, 2020.
In response to racial justice and inequity issues, rather than simply sending a memo, Bastian immediately created and instituted a detailed analysis of the racial breakdown of Delta’s employee base and corresponding leadership percentage. AFTER determining a proven inequity in its leadership ranks, Delta created such an incredibly thoughtful and practical process for improvement that we cannot adequately do it justice here (check out the detailed description here https://news.delta.com/ed-bastian-memo-taking-action-racial-justice-diversity).
If all that wasn’t enough to qualify him as a Social Capital CEO, he got rid of all those pesky fees airlines started charging a few years ago to boost profits in sneaky ways.
Oh, one other little thing – Bastian agreed to forgo his salary for six months, giving up about a half-million bucks.
Bastian also joined the Business Roundtable this year, after the group declared its members’ commitment to all stakeholders – employees, customers, communities and owners. His statement after joining summed up so perfectly his authentic, already demonstrated commitment to people.
“We’re excited to be part of a broader movement in American business that shares the same principles as ours – that putting people before profits is, in fact, in the best interests of our planet, our communities, our employees, and, yes, our shareholders…. By taking care of employees, our theory goes, our people take great care of our customers, who reward us with their loyalty. That, in turn, benefits our owners, who invest more of their capital in the company. And the circle continues.”