Delta’s CEO the Most Cray Cray in the Industry? Claims Detroit World’s Best Airport.

Delta CEO Richard Anderson may just be competing for the title of most cray cray in the airline industry with French Legion of Honor recipient and Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker.

[Fun fact: the term ‘cray’ doesn’t merely derive from shortening ‘crazy’ but from London’s Kray twins — there were two Krays — “who were the foremost perpetrators of organised crime in the East End of London during the 1950s and 1960s.” Jay-Z and Kanye West are more brilliant than some give credit for.]

Now, the whole airline industry has gone crazy. But the cray cray moniker may have to belong to Anderson. Before I get to the latest whopper, let’s review his bona fides.

Delta has the least trustworthy airline frequent flyer program that I can think of. Not only are their miles worth less than those of American, United, Alaska, Aeroplan, Korean and more but they:

This sort of behavior can only come down from the top, and at the very least the ‘top’ is responsible for it. And it’s hardly limited to the frequent flyer program. Anderson:

Richard Anderson, of course, was Delta’s CEO when they acquired Northwest Airlines. He used to be Northwest’s CEO. And Northwest built itself as Northwest Orient, a major Asia Pacific carrier operating a hub in Tokyo with fifth freedom rights obtained through the spoils of World War II. Yet he thinks other airlines get unfair help from the government. While he hands out comped elite status to politicians and then his airlines threatens politicans for subsidies.

Skift reports that Anderson claimed yesterday that Detroit “is the best airport facility in the world.” Not Singapore, Seoul Incheon, Hong Kong, or Munich. Detroit.

He cites JD Power as ‘typically’ agreeing with him.


  1. The last time they did their airport satisfaction survey was 2010
  2. That survey was limited to North American airports
  3. Citing JD Power is perhaps the weakest sauce on the entire earth.
  4. He claims JD Power “typically agrees” that Detroit’s airport is best — but two years earlier JD Power said Philadelphia, Las Vegas, and Orlando were the three best.
  5. The claim is ludicrous on face. A nice enough airport to be sure. One of the better US facilities in many ways. But the hyperbole is Akbar-ian in scale.

If Anderson is trying to compete with his arch-rival Akbar al-Baker in the Pinocchio department, he’s well on his way.

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 »

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  1. That pic at the top of the entry looks awful. Love it. Reminds me of Jim Carrey in ‘Ace Ventura, Pet Detective’ insane asylum scene.

  2. Detroit is an absolutely terrific airport. I agree it’s not the best in the world, but I’d rank in the best in the US. Other airports (SFO, DFW, IAD, LAX, JFK) have some individually great terminals, but all have significant flaws as airports. DTW is uniformly excellent.

    So while he is going too far, this certainly isn’t worth getting so condescending about.

  3. The badgering on Anderson championing DTW is completely unnecessary. He was speaking in Detroit in front of Detroit-based business leaders, so it is not a surprise that he says that DTW is the best airport in the world.

  4. So, Nicander, your defense of Richard Anderson is that he’s a liar who will tell an audience anything they want to hear?

  5. Agree with @Nicander Rizky. This was a statement made in a speech to a Detroit audience and carries no more weight than a band playing an arena in City X saying “We love City X!” or a politician from West Virginia saying “West Virginia is the best state in the country!”

    Honestly, criticize Richard Anderson for valid things, but if you’re attacking him based on a mildly hyperbolic statement to a crowd that their hometown airport is the world’s best — and if you’re using transpac routes awarded to Northwest Orient post-WWII as part of your argument against him, which is on its face ridiculous — then you’re really just looking for something to hang your “Delta sucks” post of the day.

  6. Another of their tricks is allowing travel credits to expire with no notice to the customer. When I complained about this sneaky way of screwing the customer, I was told it is done so the customer can manage their own account…..and I’m diamond and 3 million miler…Nice!

  7. And again, to be clear, Detroit IS A NICE AIRPORT. It’s not like he’s making an announcement to New Yorkers that LaGuardia is tops. This is a pretty defensible claim to make regarding Detroit. It may not be what he feels deep down, but given that he’s CEO of Delta and speaking to Detroiters, it’s what he’s expected to say.

    You think this would happen differently if this were Doug Parker speaking to a crowd in… wait, I can’t think of an American hub remotely in the running for “decent airport.”

  8. The point being here is Delta, led by Mr. Anderson has violated the trust of their frequent travelers dating back to the NWA days. Changing the way we accumulate miles yet no change to the way the miles are redeemed should be criminal. When Southwest implemented their change, both accumulation AND redemption changed to dollars based making the program fair and equitable. Our loyalty to DL is as good as a bag of coal. I pulled the plug the day they made the changes earlier this year.

  9. I wrote in the post that Detroit is a nice airport. Chicago, LAX, JFK, and Miami are dumps (though the LAX Tom Bradley Terminal is a nice building, and ORD has Tortas Frontera). DFW is too far from Dallas but is a nice airport. I don’t have real beefs with Phoenix or Charlotte. Philadelphia, other than its airspace, is decent enough.

    But the claim was best in the world. He then cited JD Power. Which isn’t credible, hasn’t done its survey in 5 years, and didn’t even say what Anderson claimed.

    Anyone wanting to give Anderson a pass would need to give al-Baker a pass for his hyperbole.

  10. Ever since they cut the Miles earned for my monthly flights, I have avoided Delta, SW, United even when they have better flight choices. Go ahead and make grab for more from the 1%, Argyle guy. You lose the 99% who are informed.

  11. Delta and AA are about the same when it comes to transparency. They both manipulate their awards so it’s next to impossible to ever get a saver award. I think AA is even worse than Delta when it comes to availability.

  12. JD Power, hahahahah.
    The sent me a 25+ page survey on my Hyundai Equus, which I think is a POS. (They did a poor job copying the Lexus)
    My point is they sent the survey along with a crisp $1 bill. NICE.

    Then they sent me a “we haven’t heard from you” letter and another $1 2 months later.

    Needless to say, I feel enriched by JD Power’s surveys.
    A few months back I got sick of companies asking for feedback on the CSR experience. I decided to count the requests. Inclusive of the “pop-up” ones from Foresee, I received 63 in one week.
    Sorry , but I had to digress on the JD Power comment. I even got requests from US government while on GOES site.

  13. Side point, that fun fact is a false fact. A girl by the name of Mia Glenn made that up on tumblr about Kray. It was a joke that went farther than it was supposed to. There’s also a blog dedicated to her troll achievement

  14. Gary,

    Not really arguing with you but the whole distance thing about DFW being too far from downtown is just overblown. Let’s look at the these two airports:

    Distance from Downtown Detroit to DTW = 20.5 miles
    Distance from Downtown Dallas to DFW = 19.9 miles (DAL is only 7, of course)

    Of course DEN, IAD, and JFK are further out as well. IAH and LAX are within a mile of the same distance as DFW but take longer to get to because of traffic. For that matter, EWR and LGA take longer too.

    You’re right on the cray-cray thing, of course. What’s amazing here is that DTW isn’t all that great. It doesn’t have an integrated terminal complex. If you go from Delta to another airline, you’re on a bus. As far as Delta hubs go, I think ATL might argue that it’s facilities are better. I hate the rental car situation at DTW and much prefer the train to ATL’s consolidated facility, for example. ATL also has MARTA in the terminal that can get you downtown in 20 minutes. All in all, DTW is a nice airport but doesn’t make my top 10.

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