American and United Executives Stress Culture at JP Morgan Conference; Delta Maintains Its Competitive Advantage

On March 13th, JP Morgan held its annual Aviation, Transportation & Industrials Conference, and in attendance were executives from Delta, United and American Airlines. One of the key themes of their respective presentations was culture – and how culture can be a competitive advantage.

Our CEO Ed Bastian drove this point home, stating that, “our people are our greatest asset.” He noted that Delta has a “sustainable advantage” and that “it’s the people that create that sustainable advantage.”

Our competitors, however, were less optimistic. United President J. Scott Kirby was asked how he could “improve culture” and “win back the frontline.” He lamented the disconnect between United leadership and employees, admitting that “I wish we would have talked to more frontline employees” before altering United’s operational bonus plan.

American CEO Doug Parker sounded even more despondent about the state of his company’s culture. While setting it as a long-term goal, he said that “what I have less confidence about is our ability to make culture a competitive advantage.” In January 2017 he admitted that “Delta already has this advantage,” but more than a year later admitted American hadn’t measured up because of “a lot of history that is in place at our company.”

Delta’s unique culture – and the people that fuel it – continue to set us apart from the competition, resulting in industry-leading performance and industry-leading profit sharing. Keeping that culture and the direct relationship between leadership and the frontline intact is the key to maintain our competitive advantage.

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