New Delta CEO Ed Bastian's game plan: Steady growth


Ed Bastian, who will become Delta Air Lines' chief executive in May, has a message for those wondering how he will run an airline that has set the benchmark for success in recent years: Don't expect any major changes.

"There are no substantive changes we're anticipating," the airline president told CNBC on Thursday, one day after Delta announced the management transition. "It has taken 10 hard years to get the product and to get the service levels and customer satisfaction to where they are. Our goal is to improve it," Bastian said.

Edward Bastian, Delta Airlines
Shizuo Kambayashi | AP

Delta is doing so well it made $5.9 billion in 2015, the airline's most profitable year ever.

It caps a six-year run in which the airline has become the benchmark for service and profitability.

Current chief executive Richard Anderson, who will give up day-to-day oversight of Delta and become the airline's executive chairman, is widely credited with lifting the carrier to new heights.

And while Anderson deserves a lot of credit, the reality is Delta has soared to new heights thanks to a very strong executive team.

Delta CEO expects even stronger 2016

As president of Delta, Bastian has been key to that success. As has Glen Hauenstein, who will fill Bastian's job as president of the airline. Senior Executive Vice President Gil West will move up to the job of chief operating officer.

"Everybody (on the management team) knows their job. We've got a business plan that everyone has contributed to writing and that we're focused on," Bastian said.

Bastian believes Delta will continue growing the business by expanding internationally. In 2015, the carrier increased its ownership stake in Aeromexico. It also announced plans to buy more shares of GOL, a Brazilian airline.

In short, Bastian and his team will stick with the plan they have put together over several years.

And the plan includes the CEO transition coming up in May.

"It's been several years in the making," said Bastian. "In fact, we had the date pegged for almost a year, as far as timing."