Delta appoints ex-Northwest head as CEO

The board of directors of Delta Air Lines announced it has elected Richard H. Anderson to serve as the company’s chief executive officer, succeeding retiring CEO Gerald Grinstein.Anderson brings a unique depth of experience to the position, having served in top jobs for several major U.S. corporations, including executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group; chief executive officer of Northwest Airlines; staff vice president and deputy general counsel at Continental Airlines; and most recently as a member of Delta’s Board of Directors. Anderson will become CEO effective Sept. 1.

“After a thorough search, the Board concluded that Richard Anderson possesses the right blend of seasoned leadership, strategic skills, international experience and airline knowledge the company needs to navigate the industry’s challenges and capitalize on its opportunities,” said Daniel A. Carp, chairman of Delta’s Board of Directors. “Well-qualified with a proven track record in this highly competitive industry, Richard has a demonstrated ability to master the competitive pressures of today’s marketplace with innovation and an unwavering focus on the customer. He brings complementary strengths to Delta’s highly talented leadership team and high admiration for the people of Delta and their recent success in restructuring to become a fiercely competitive airline.”

Anderson, age 52, has nearly 20 years of airline industry experience and will become the eighth CEO in Delta’s 78-year history.

“Delta people have made amazing accomplishments and have a passion for customer service that is renowned in the industry. I am honored to accept the challenge of leading this legendary company into a future that holds great promise,” Anderson said. “With a solid strategy in place that provides a dynamic platform for future growth and success, I look forward to working side by side with Delta professionals to make Delta an undisputed leader in customer service, operational performance and financial strength and stability.

“In the coming weeks, I will spend the majority of my time listening to Delta people to learn how we can further improve the customer experience and position our company as an even better place to work. Backed by award-winning products and services, Delta has great things in store for its customers and I am eager to support the commitment of our 48,000 dedicated professionals worldwide to remaining the airline of choice for our customers,” Anderson stated.


With Anderson’s appointment, Gerald Grinstein, 75, will retire from his position as CEO and a member of the Board of Directors effective Sept. 1, concluding his distinguished 20-year tenure as a Delta director.

“It has been a privilege to serve this company and the greatest people in the industry,” Grinstein said. “I have known Richard for a long time. He is a ferocious competitor, thoroughly knowledgeable about airline operations, and understands the link between passenger satisfaction and living up to our service commitments. He has an extensive background in the Far East and Asia, which are among Delta’s next growth opportunities. Richard’s sound judgment and professionalism make him a great addition to Delta’s battle-tested leadership team.”

In addition to Anderson’s appointment, the Board of Directors also announced that Chief Financial Officer Edward H. Bastian will be promoted to President and Chief Financial Officer, reporting to Anderson.

“Richard Anderson is a true professional with a proven track record,” Bastian said. “I am looking forward to working with Richard as we position our company for an even stronger future.”

Anderson brings to Delta extensive leadership experience at the most senior levels in the aviation industry as well as in other corporations. Most recently, Anderson served as executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group and president of UnitedHealth’s Commercial Markets Group. Prior to joining UnitedHealth in 2004, he had a 14-year career at Northwest Airlines where he served as vice president and deputy general counsel; senior vice president of Technical Operations and Airport Affairs; executive vice president and chief operating officer; and as chief executive officer from 2001 to 2004. Prior to joining Northwest in 1990, Anderson worked as in-house counsel for Continental Airlines, where he ultimately served as staff vice president and deputy general counsel. Anderson also serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Cargill Inc. and Medtronic Inc.

Anderson holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston and a Juris Doctor degree from South Texas College of Law. He and his wife, Susan, look forward to relocating to the Atlanta area this fall.