What Delta is Telling Employees About the Year Ahead

On New Year’s Day Delta CEO sent a message to his airline’s employees laying out the company’s goals for the year. While Delta doesn’t have the simple mission the way that Southwest does they have clear goals and metrics to know whether they’re reaching those goals or not.

And it seems useful sharing what the airline is telling its employees what the company is doing, and the priorities those employees should have as they go about their year.

Accompanying Ed Bastian’s letter is a graphic laying out the specifics. While there’s plenty of claptrack and milquetoast sloganeering here, there are also concrete metrics (“85% positive employee engagement” “increase revenues by 4-6%, with 50% of revenues from premium products and non-ticket sources”) and statements with real goals embedded (“provided industry leading total compensation for industry-leading performance“).

Here’s the letter:

To: Delta Employees Worldwide
From: Ed Bastian
Subject: LEADING THE WAY IN 2019

The beginning of a new year is always an exciting time, particularly here at Delta. As we look ahead, the next 12 months are full of plans and opportunities for us to better serve our customers and each other, and continue to widen our lead with the competition.

Consider just a few highlights of what’s coming in 2019:

  • Global Expansion: Delta is becoming more international than ever, with inaugural service on routes like Seoul and Mexico City from our Minneapolis hub; Boston to Edinburgh and Lisbon; Amsterdam from Tampa, and many others. And we will see more benefits from our joint venture partnerships, which power 60 percent of our international revenues and enable growth on Delta metal to worldwide destinations we could never serve otherwise.

  • Fleet Transformation: Delta expects to add 80 new state-of-the-art aircraft this year, including the 737-900ER, A220, A321, A350 and A330-900neo. These aircraft are gamechangers, loaded with innovative technology and raising the bar for Delta’s customer experience.

  • Technology and Innovation: Our customers will enjoy fully biometric international terminals in Atlanta and Detroit, enhanced digital and mobile tools, expansion of RFID technology and improved in-flight connectivity and entertainment as we continue to lead the industry in technological advances.

  • Investing in our People: We’re putting more technology into our employees’ hands so they can deliver more personalized service and further improve our operation, making our work easier and more efficient along the way. We will also continue to hire people to support our busy operation. And on Feb. 14, Delta will pay out $1 billion in profit sharing for the fifth year in a row – something no company has ever before achieved.

  • Airports of the Future: We will be achieving major milestones this year as we work to transform the airport experience in Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Seattle and elsewhere – taking advantage of the opportunity to reshape outdated airports for the new era of travel.

  • Supporting Our Communities: Delta’s commitment to being a leader in corporate responsibility is stronger than ever. Our efforts this year will strengthen our brand, but that’s not why we do it – we support our communities because it is embedded in Delta’s values-based culture.

This will be the year when we demonstrate that no one better connects the world than Delta. As always, we will be guided towards that goal in the months ahead by our Flight Plan. This year the plan looks a little different – rather than a lengthy list of deliverables, it is a concise statement of our top priorities and unifying values. It should serve as a guide to every decision made by Delta people, regardless of whether you work in the operation, directly with customers, or in a support role.

The Flight Plan reflects the unique Delta culture, with an emphasis on living by our values, investing in our future, taking care of our customers and people and always staying safe.

I wish I could predict that 2019 will be an easy year for us. But we all know the airline business is fiercely competitive and sometimes humbling. We will continue to wrestle with unpredictable weather, volatile jet fuel prices and economic uncertainty. The good news is that we’ve absorbed the lessons of the past 12 months and we are even stronger and better prepared than we were a year ago. We have exciting initiatives and plans rolling out this year that will continue to power our success, giving our people the tools to innovate and be the best as we continue to transform the business of air travel.

I am looking forward to spending time with my Delta family in the months ahead. There is nothing more invigorating than seeing Delta people in action every day across our system as we build the world’s No. 1 airline together.

Happy New Year!

It’s notable that Global Expansion is first on the list. The US aviation market is mature and Delta more than nearly any other carrier has pursued a growth strategy of investing in other airlines and therefore in the growth of other aviation markets around the world. That may continue as they discuss a possible investment in Alitalia.

We’ll see more new planes — the Airbus A220 will be a customer favorite because of the wider fuselage which supports wider seats and it will allow the carrier to operate economically into competitor hubs like Dallas Fort-Worth.

They’ll keep reminding employees how much they’re paying out in profit sharing. And other airlines will have unhappy employees as a result as United scales back employee bonus payouts and American’s profit sharing is paltry by comparison.

However Delta actually gets something for the money it invests — and that’s a key component of the goals it has. Contra American which hands out raises and asks nothing new in return, Delta expects performance for pay. It helps that they have fewer unions, but they have fewer unions for a reason.

Ultimately the value of the wage can’t exceed the value of marginal product over time, so they’re not making a particularly controversial statement — but they understand the compensation has to tie to performance. Their TechOps team, for instance, but keeps the operation on time and is a profit center performing maintenance for other carriers.

On the customer side they want to continue to improve customer satisfaction and improve their operation. It’s noteworthy that the only place SkyMiles gets a mention is embedded — that half their profits need to come from things other than flying. SkyMiles is a cash cow, not a loyalty tool.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. The free raises AA gave out was one of the most bone-headed decisions in corporate history. Utterly inexplicable.

  2. Free raise? What the hell is that. Ghostrider do you get raises at work that are not free? Stupid comment.

  3. Jr — I fly 300,000 miles per year and zero of those are in coach. And, unfortunately I fly Delta more than any other airline. I much prefer flying First on LH, LX, EK, EY, SQ, CX, etc.

  4. Interesting that they mention communities after that debacle with the Fox Theatre that showed that they couldn’t care less about communities.

  5. ghostrider5408,

    Are you familiar with the term ghostrider being used to refer to the KKK? Is that why you chose that nomenclature for yourself?

    Your dear Commander-Moron-in-Chief Trump has single-handedly — small as his hands are — marched the country toward recession so soon after inheriting the Obama economy, an economy which was strong and strengthening even well into Trump’s term as POTUS.

    The Trump recession is unfortunately coming. The limited upside of that is that the the man-child of the NY KKK supporter has declining chances to be President beyond January 2021.

    Make America great again by getting rid of Trump as President is the US? Sure, but the Trump recession will still be the Trump recession. Lucky for the airlines, recessions are sort of married with sort of lower oil prices.

  6. GU Wonder,
    Were you on a flight that depressurized and didnt get to the oxygen mask while you were writing your comment?

  7. Looks like GUWonder doesn’t pay a lot of attention to economic metrics. I’m no fan of Trump at all, but the DJIA and S&P were almost completely flat for the 2 year period preceding Trump’s election. Even after the recent losses, the DJIA is up 31.7% and the S&P is up 22.5% since the 2016 election. GDP growth has been solid, increasing, and significantly more consistent growth than under the Obama administration.

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