Delta Air Lines’s Edward Bastian

After navigating the airline through bankruptcy, its CFO talks about his new boss and the future of air travel.

There are still plenty of obstacles to growing this business. What are the biggest ones?

The price of fuel is a big one. There is the constant impact of geopolitical forces. As a deregulated industry, we are still heavily taxed and regulated. Getting the airspace fixed is another obstacle; the current airspace is still working on 1950s technology.

What about airport congestion?

Airlines can act responsibly by doing things like making changes to schedules and equipping aircraft with next-generation technology. But Congress must address the very real need for air-traffic-control modernization that is fairly funded and does not unduly burden commercial air travel customers, who are currently paying more than their fair share and subsidizing business jets that use the same airspace.

The White House recently made some recommendations concerning congestion that included curbing flights at the busiest airports. Do you agree with the proposals?

We’re glad the Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration are starting a process to address the national airspace capacity shortfall and develop a plan with the industry to reduce congestion. We applaud these efforts and agree that action is needed to prevent a repeat of last summer’s unacceptable delays and passenger inconvenience.

Delta recently announced its plan for continuing to meet growing customer demand at JFK while addressing delays — an effort that complements our ongoing work with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to reduce aviation congestion.

Since you are moving into a new role, Delta will obviously need a new CFO. What are the top three things you are looking for in a successor?

Keys for me in the new CFO, in addition to the obvious technical qualifications, will be an individual of the highest character, who is able to quickly integrate and have impact within a strong leadership team while working in a very dynamic — and sometimes volatile — environment. I am also looking for someone who is competitive. We are in a tough industry and we fight hard to win our customers’ loyalty.

Obviously, every new CEO wants to put his or her mark on a company. What is your best argument in favor of proceeding with the restructuring and growth plan that was developed during the bankruptcy process?

Delta’s new business plan is producing positive financial results. That’s all the proof we need.


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