Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines, at APEX EXPO 2019.

Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines. Image: Vance Walstra

Fourteen years ago this month, Delta Air Lines filed for bankruptcy. Fast forward to 2019 and it is the world’s largest airline, when measured by revenue, according to Q2 results. The Atlanta-based carrier’s CEO, Ed Bastian, said this was achieved through investments, not cuts.

“We’ve been very focused on what we can do to segment. We knew we could never compete on price alone, so we had to distinguish ourselves,” Bastian said in a conversation with APEX/IFSA CEO Dr. Joe Leader. “Our reputation is built on a foundation of reliability.”

“We knew we could never compete on price alone, so we had to distinguish ourselves” – Ed Bastian, Delta Air Lines.

One way that Delta has improved its passenger experience, Bastian said, is through biometrics. The airline’s customers can enroll in CLEAR, which allows them to bypass security by replacing ID documents with biometric iris and fingerprint recognition. “People who now go through CLEAR say, ‘Wow, this is what travel used to be like.’” Bastian also highlighted Delta’s drive toward environmental sustainability. He said each new aircraft the airline takes has a 25 percent lower carbon footprint compared to the ones they replace.

Because commercial air travel is becoming more democratized, Bastian said people who sit in Delta’s economy class are “just as important as the ones who sit in the lie-flat seats in our Delta One Suites.” In the context of investment, he said this is important because 50 percent of Delta’s revenue comes from its Main Cabin.

Starting in November, all economy-class passengers on international flights longer than six hours will receive mix-and-match meal options, welcome cocktails and a hot towel service during the flight. “We realized that we needed to put more investment into our long-haul economy-class experience,” Bastian said.