Edward H. Bastian
Chief Executive Officer, Delta Air Lines
Excerpt from remarks to Boston College Chief Executives Club
March 9, 2017
TAKEAWAY: Profit Sharing
To what do you attribute your success? You talked about consolidation. What else is going on? You went from bankruptcy, and now you’ve got a profitable airline that you’re trying to grow.
Well, we’ve got great people. We really do. I know everyone in here has a great affinity for their people. In the airline space, we'd like to think we’ve got the best people in the business, and we’ve got 80,000 of them. They do really well. They’ve done well financially. We’ve been able to restore the earnings levels of all 80,000, which was one of my goals. In fact, from the merger, which was in 2008, until today, we’ve been able to increase the overall compensation of all 80,000 people by 80%. I don’t know there’s another company on the planet that’s increased their employee compensation by 80% across the board for everybody.
One of the things we did is we instituted a profit-sharing plan when we went through the hard times, because we had to take pay cuts and make some adjustments. And we told them that once we got this thing sorted out again, our employees would be the first to participate in our success. So from first dollar of profits, 15% of the profits go back to the employees of Delta Airlines. We pay it on Valentine’s Day every year. This past Valentine’s Day, we distributed $1.1 billion to the employees.
None of the management participate. It’s all just the employees. And it’s the third year in a row we’ve been over $1 billion of profit sharing. We haven’t found a company yet anywhere—forget airline—that’s paid $1 billion once. We’ve done it three years in a row. That alignment with the people and the morale, it’s really been fabulous.