Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines is moving more of its operations outside of the United States as it looks to become a global enterprise, said Delta CEO Richard Anderson.
Anderson, in a weekly message to employees, made the comments while discussing an expanded partnership with carrier Aerolineas Argentinas to strengthen Delta’s presence in Latin America.
“Part of what we’re doing is we’re globalizing Delta,” Anderson said. “And that means we’re moving a lot of our operations out of the U.S.,” with more international marketing, distribution, network planning and pricing moving to different regions of the world, he said.
The company has already done that in Amsterdam and in Japan and is making similar moves in Sao Paulo, with plans to do so in Mexico City as well, Anderson said. Delta is also looking to expansion in Shanghai, where it has invested in carrier China Eastern.
“The reason is really simple. We have to be close to our customers. We have to be close to our markets,” Anderson said. “We can’t just be Atlanta-centric.”
As Delta grows with more flights around the world, Anderson’s comments could indicate that its Atlanta headquarters would not similarly grow in size.
Delta employs some 35,000 people in Georgia, after adding about 8,000 jobs in the state since emerging from bankruptcy in 2007. Amid flagging revenues, it recently announced layoffs among management and administrative employees, many of whom work at its Atlanta headquarters.
For years, Delta was a mostly domestic airline with a focus on carrying U.S. passengers to vacation destinations and other cities. But as the U.S. domestic market for air travel matures, the biggest growth opportunities lie overseas.
It hasn’t been easy for airlines to grow internationally, amid volatile economic conditions in Europe and more recently in Asia, challenges with expansion in Africa and unrest in other parts of the world.
But, “we’ve got to become a much more international company with a very global focus that’s very close to the markets that we rely on for our long-term growth,” Anderson said. “So please know that we’re going to try to Latinize our airline and to become the local airline in all the markets that we serve around the world.”
Workers walk in front of Delta’s headquarters after the Delta-Northwest merger was announced in 2008. JOHN SPINK / AJC