Ed Bastian has been CEO of Delta Air Lines for nearly eight weeks after stepping into the role May 2, elevating his profile in the airline industry and in the business community in metro Atlanta.
Bastian has worked for Atlanta-based Delta for about 18 years and most recently served as president of the airline. As he makes his rounds in Atlanta and through the airline’s global operation, here are 5 things to know about the company’s new leader:
1. He drives a Tesla to work. “My Tesla is great,” Bastian said during a breakfast talk held by the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce last week. “I got the Tesla because I live here in Sugarloaf, and I have to go down to the airport [for work]. It gets me in the HOV lane all the way down.” It’s a Model S, which starts at $71,000. “I wasn’t making an environmental statement or a new age statement. I was just being very practical and very pragmatic. It’s a wonderful car. It’s a wonderful vehicle. U.S. built, U.S. technology, U.S. innovation,” Bastian said.
2. He ran his first marathon in 2014. Several years prior, Bastian had promised Delta’s team of employees in New York that if the airline’s operation in the Big Apple became profitable, he would run the New York City marathon. The longest race he had run before that was the AJC Peachtree Road Race held in Atlanta every July 4. Delta did end up finally became profitable in New York for the first time in its history, after expanding its presence against large operations run by American, JetBlue, United and other carriers. Bastian kept his word by running the New York City marathon two years ago, raising funds for the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research.
3. Bastian, 58, and his wife Anna have four children, including a school-age daughter. “I’m young at heart,” Bastian said earlier this year shortly after being named to the CEO position. “I’ve got a 12-year-old, our youngest, so she’s got designs on college and everything. I’ve got to keep working hard for her.”
4. He was the oldest of nine children raised in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and once dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player. Instead, Bastian studied accounting at St. Bonaventure University. “When I graduated college, I had never even stepped foot on an airplane,” Bastian said. He went to work for accounting firm Price Waterhouse in New York.
5. He left Delta and came back. Bastian joined Delta in 1998 as vice president of finance and controller, was promoted to senior vice president in 2000, and departed in 2004 over strategic differences. He said he believed a plan to cut jobs, salaries and benefits wasn’t going to work and that the company needed to make the decision to file for bankruptcy protection. He said he was “vocal internally and left,” and took a job as chief financial officer for Acuity Brands. Six months later, Delta’s then-CEO Jerry Grinstein asked him to come back as chief financial officer of the airline. Delta did end up filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and then charted a route to financial recovery, with Bastian leading the restructuring.