ATW Editor's Blog

What do Donald Trump and Delta’s Anderson have in common?

RSS

No, I don’t believe Richard Anderson is going to run for US President. The answer is controversy; both have been controversial figures in 2015. But controversial doesn’t necessarily mean influential.

The Delta Air Lines CEO, as I explained in my previous blog, has been named Aviation Week & Space Technology’s person of the year. That recognition, I also explained, is given to the year’s most influential person in the aviation and aerospace industry, for good or bad.

I have no say in the AW&ST selection, but it’s my opinion that – rather like Trump in the general media – there is a muddling here of influence versus controversy. Trump is getting his 15 minutes, but he won’t be the next President and after the US elections are over, he will follow Sarah Palin and other TV reality celebs into the same black hole of un-influenciality.

Anderson is highly influential within Delta, of course, and leads an expert team and a very successful airline. But that’s a CEO’s job.

Anderson has set himself apart this past year for his controversial, often blunt, remarks and go-against-the-grain stance on several issues, including Ex-Im Bank financing, US ATC reform/privatization and the Gulf carriers.

But has he influenced the wider industry on any of those issues? The track record in 2015 is not impressive. Ex-Im has been overwhelmingly voted back in; there’s a growing swell of cross-industry support for ATC reform; and my understanding on the Gulf campaign is that it’s not going to achieve much. I’m hearing that the White House may not even grant the request for government-to-government talks on the Open Skies agreements with the UAE and Qatar, but even if it does, won’t rescind those air agreements or require much change.

If Anderson were influential, he would have persuaded more fellow A4A trade association members to support him on such issues. He couldn’t do that, so he quit.

If his company’s purchase of a Pennsylvania oil refinery was seen as an industry game-changer, Delta’s competitors would be looking to follow suit. So far, that’s a lone-wolf initiative. On oil, you could argue that American Airlines’ Doug Parker is more influential. His executive team’s strategy not to hedge on fuel paid off royally when oil prices dropped and many other airlines are now also reevaluating their hedging strategies.

Nor can you compare Anderson’s achievements with the likes of Herb Kelleher or Bob Crandall, in terms of industry effect and influence. Kelleher founded Southwest and invented a low cost carrier model that transformed commercial air transport and which has been imitated round the world. Crandall created the frequent flier/loyalty program that just about every airline in the world has mimicked. 

That’s influence.

Please or Register to post comments.

What's ATW Editor's Blog?

Karen Walker Blog

Blog Archive