Delta regained the title of world's largest airline brand by passenger numbers during 2019 (though not by revenue passenger miles/kilometres - it has fewer international long distance passengers than United). In fact the three biggest US carriers - Delta, United and American Airlines - are generally neck-and-neck each year, closely matched in passenger traffic. Delta first became #1 in 2008 following the acquisition of US competitor Northwest. It lost that position in 2016 following the merger of American and US Airways, then won it back in 2019. Crucially, Delta was the only major US carrier not to own any Boeing 737 MAX jets, so was unaffected by the suspension of service of that aircraft. Like its peers, it is primarily a domestic carrier. In a normal year it would offer almost 940 flights a day out of its Atlanta hub to more than 200 US destinations. Its system is also fed by a network of independent regional US carriers operating under Delta livery. Internationally, Delta is one of the founder members of Skyteam, the marketing alliance which also now includes transatlantic joint venture partner Air France-KLM. In 2012 it agreed to acquire Singapore Airlines' 49% shareholding in Virgin Atlantic of the UK, and also controls 51% of Aeromexico. In 2019, it acquired a 20% stake in Chile's LATAM Airlines. There are also alliances with WestJet of Canada and Korean Air for flights to and from the US, and small stakes in several other international carriers. Delta also has a long-standing credit card partnership with American Express to support its SkyMiles customer loyalty scheme. The airline's revenue passenger kilometres for 2019 were 383bn (or 238bn revenue passenger miles), and total passengers carried were around 190m. However, those figures plunged dramatically in Covid-impacted 2020. Topline hit a record high in 2019 of $47.0bn, before plummeting by almost two-thirds in 2020 to $17.1bn. Net income of $4.8bn in 2019 plunged to a net loss for 2020 of $12.4bn. Ed Bastian succeeded Richard Anderson as CEO in 2016. Delta was originally founded in 1924 as a crop-dusting service, which extended its reach into commercial and passenger services in the 1930s. It expanded nationally and internationally through acquisitions including Northeastern in 1972 and Pan Am in 1991.
Capsule checked 16th June 2021
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Adbrands Daily Update 26th Mar 2020: America's airlines - one of the sectors hit hardest by the lockdown - are likely to return to some form of partial state ownership under the terms of the government's $2 trillion emergency aid package. The eight main airlines - American, Delta, United, Southwest, Alaska, JetBlue, Hawaiian and Atlas - as well as cargo carriers UPS and FedEx are to share around $25bn of grants to be used exclusively for staffing costs as well as another $25bn of loans. That's considerably more than the total of $15bn they received following the 9/11 attacks. In return they must agree to suspend any staffing reductions until at least the end of September. Terms have yet to be finalised, but in exchange for the grants the government is expected to receive warrants to acquire equity at a future date at a fixed price.
Adbrands Weekly Update 8th Nov 2018: Ads Of The Week: "From Up Here". A break - thankfully! - from the Christmas overload, but even more topical in its own way. Delta Air Lines marks the midterm elections with this fine spot from Wieden & Kennedy addressing questions of division within America. Both conceptually and visually, it hits the ball out of the park. There is always something hypnotically fascinating about seeing our Earth from above, and this spot offers 60 seconds of pure wonder as well as an upbeat and inspiring voiceover. Gorgeous. To squeeze just one more Yuletide analogy out of the bag, neither the Democrats nor President Trump got quite the Christmas present they were hoping for this week, but this ad at least offers a prayer for a new season of togetherness and brotherly unity. Yeah, right! Dream on.
Adbrands Weekly Update 8th Mar 2018: Ads of the Week "Runways". Here's a fabulous new campaign for Delta Air Lines from regular agency Wieden & Kennedy New York. These ads are always good, often unexpectedly arty and off the wall, like the recent one that featured only the undercarriage view of a runway's white lines as a passenger jet speeds towards take-off. This one uses a similar runway concept but in quite a different way. It starts low-key but then builds slowly to a soaring climax. Superb use of unusual camera angles and the rising whine of that engine will definitely get your heart beating faster by the end of the ad. The simplest of ideas, but executed with great originality.
Adbrands Weekly Update 3rd Aug 2017: Sir Richard Branson is to surrender majority control of the Virgin Atlantic airline as part of a wide-ranging strengthening of its existing Transatlantic alliance with Delta Airlines of the US and Air France-KLM. Delta already has a 49% stake in the company, acquired from Singapore Airlines in 2014. Now Air France-KLM will purchase a 31% stake from Branson for around £220m. Virgin Group will retain the remaining 20%. At the same time, Delta and its Asian partner China Eastern Airlines will each acquire a 10% holding in Air France-KLM. Branson said Virgin Atlantic will continue to fly under its current name.
Adbrands Weekly Update 18th Feb 2016: Ads of the Week "Tell The World". Wieden & Kennedy New York's latest for Delta Airlines is typically stirring. It features some striking imagery - it's not every day you get a Great White in an airline ad - and Donald Sutherland's voice is always a treat, but if we're honest that script is perhaps a little more portentous than necessary. Such gravitas might be justified for a trip to the moon, but this is a journey that Delta's pilots deliver around 5,400 times every single day.
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