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Continued: Delta CEO credits management 'pack' with airline's turnaround; pursues faster security lines

  • Article by: JOSHUA FREED , AP Airlines Writer
  • Last update: June 26, 2013 - 5:17 PM

AP: Whose idea was it to buy an oil refinery?

ANDERSON: Well, we actually first started looking at buying an oil company. We didn't have one picked out. You've got to take control over every aspect of your business. You can't let any of your suppliers dictate the way the refiners were dictating to us. Our business model has to capture the full cost of fuel, but when it's $12 billion, you've got to invest and figure out how you're going to keep that cost under your control. We talked about oil companies, we talked about refineries. It took us a couple of years, but then this one came on the market for the price of a 787.

AP: How often do you check your stock price?

ANDERSON: You know, some days I don't check it. You know what I check more than that? I check fuel and crack spreads, unit revenue, and how the airline is running.

AP: What's a day like for you? Are you one of those guys who's there at 6 a.m.?

ANDERSON: Well see, you make it sound like it's an "I'' problem. It's not an "I'' problem, it's a "we" problem, right?

AP: I realize that you're not gassing up the planes.

ANDERSON: I live a normal life like you guys do. I get up in the morning and drive to work and get to work and have meetings. I live close to the office, so my trip is 15 minutes. Atlanta may have a traffic problem but it doesn't have a New York problem. I get up really early, do my email, and drink coffee with my wife, pet the dog, get in the car, drive to work, drink coffee on my way to work, get in the office and bother Ed.

AP: As you fly around, where do you sit?

ANDERSON: I was in row 28 coming up here. I wear my badge. And I fly in coach.

AP: And enough people know what you look like?

ANDERSON: Oh, yeah, because of that movie. (Anderson introduces the pre-flight safety video). That's when you get the newspaper and kind of go like this (raises imaginary newspaper over his eyes).

AP: Do you always fly coach, even on long-haul to Asia?

ANDERSON: I've done long-haul to Asia. You know what I like to try to do? I like to try to fly on the competition when I go long-haul. I take my little black book and just make notes and observe what's going on and how the airports are operating, and how your competitors are operating.

AP: You were once a prosecutor. How do you get into this mindset, of dealing with operational data and redcoats?

ANDERSON: Well, just when you're a bad lawyer, you've got to be able to do something more productive. ... I've done a lot of different things. Lawyer. I even spent time as the chief counsel to the criminal trial court judges in Houston. United Health Group was a lot of fun.

AP: What have you learned about managing from all those jobs?

ANDERSON: It's probably just a mishmash of a lot of little rules, right? You know, always return your phone calls promptly, always be on time for your meetings. Always be the person that people look forward to go into a meeting with. Don't ask people to do things you wouldn't do. Be kind to people. I don't know — it's probably how you were raised or something. I was raised in a very big Catholic family, so you know, you were taught to be polite.

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