Delta Air Lines Chairman Resigns Effective Immediately

Delta announced this evening that Richard Anderson, who stepped down as CEO in May but remained the airline’s Chairman, “has elected to retire as executive chairman effective this date.”

They did not offer any reason:

  • For his departure as Chairman so soon after stepping down as CEO
  • For his departure as Chairman without any advance notice
  • For his departure as Chairman, period

Which means there’s a story here, as many suspected there was when he left his role as CEO of the airline, an announcement that came when he was still 60 years old.

Further suggesting that this wasn’t the way it was all supposed to go, they’ve named a new non-executive Chairman (rather than Anderson holding the role until CEO Ed Bastian was elevated): Francis Blake, former Chairman and CEO of Home Depot.

Anderson had first been CEO of Northwest. As CEO of Delta he acquired Northwest. The airline made the merger successful. They made their operation successful. And through it all they always looked out for number one, themselves.

    Delta’s Richard Anderson

Delta during Anderson’s tenure in my view:

  1. ran an excellent operational airline
  2. while treating customers and partners with disdain

the legacy of Richard Anderson is… mixed. He led his airline to profitability and to the status of most-admired among his US peers.

However Anderson blamed the big Gulf airlines for 9/11 (when Delta partners with Saudia, whose government was at least complicit in the attacks). He did this because he wanted to make lower airfares illegal. The 9/11 comment should go on his tombstone, like the late Marion Barry’s line about the woman with whom he was videotaped smoking crack.

Anderson claimed offloading his airline’s pensions on the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation wasn’t a subsidy. They may not cancel many flights anymore, but he shouldn’t be entirely proud of his tenure either.

Loyalty used to matter to Delta. What they’ve come to now, though, is a character issue as much as a business or rewards decision.

He’ll be a controversial figure for a long time in the industry. But he’ll have a lifetime of free flights to take him to meetings of Conquistadores del Cielo.

It will be interesting to see what he does next, since he retires at age 61.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Maybe he is being better for something in the Clinton administration-in-waiting? He has been a big donor.

  2. @Greg that would certainly be one explanation that would also provide insight into his abrupt departure from the board role, and why they wouldn’t elaborate.

  3. Look at his picture in full detail. Do you think a guy like that should be the Chairman of the Board of any company?

  4. Delta was an unethical airline that treated passengers like cattle
    I gave them a chance this summer
    F’ing horrible walked off the plane at LGA ugly

  5. He is a getleman in all regards. He did great things for Delta and I wish him good health, good fortune and happiness. I’m sad to see him go. I was also sad when he left his position of actively running the airline. Before he left, he gave all Delta employees, across the board, a nice and hefty raise as a parting gift. He inspired great loyalty from his employees. I know you have a particular disdain for Delta, but I’m truly lost at your comparison of this man to a crack smoking lunatic. Undeserved and unfounded comparison, in my book.

Comments are closed.