Delta is marking a major milestone in the place it has now called home for three quarters of a century. The airline’s move to Atlanta 75 years ago today - on March 1, 1941 - fueled Delta’s growth from a regional carrier to the world’s second-largest airline. At the same time, Delta’s climb helped transform the city and region into an economic and cultural powerhouse.
The airline employs tens of thousands of Georgians – it’s among the state’s top private employers – and contributes millions of dollars and countless employee volunteer hours to charities and organizations throughout the Atlanta metro area.
"Delta’s success and Atlanta’s success have been intertwined for 75 years,” said Ed Bastian, Delta’s President and incoming CEO. “Key to this success has been the historic partnership between Delta, the city of Atlanta, the state of Georgia and our thousands of Atlanta-based employees and customers.”
Gov. Nathan Deal said Delta’s economic impact on Georgia has been enormous. “Georgia has a longstanding and highly successful partnership with Delta Air Lines that has helped both of us grow and flourish over the past 75 years," said Deal. "The massive economic impact and multitude of jobs Delta has provided to Georgians have been critical to the state's prosperity. We are proud the world's second-largest airline calls Georgia home and look forward to this excellent corporate citizen reaching even greater heights."
Delta was a small carrier focused on the Southeast – its slogan was “The Airline of the South”- when founder C.E. Woolman moved its headquarters from Monroe, La., to Atlanta. It was a decision that would link Delta and Atlanta – altering the course of both – forever.
In 1941, Delta was awarded a major route expansion from Atlanta northward to Knoxville, Tenn., and Cincinnati, and to Savannah southward. At the time, Atlanta’s mayor, William B. Hartsfield, was working on extensive improvements to the city’s airport, Candler Field, in an effort to turn it into a major aviation center.
Woolman, realizing the potential the city’s location and ambition presented to further the young airline’s growth, worked with Hartsfield on an agreement for the city to lease land to Delta for $2,500 a year and provide $50,000 to help build Hangar One and attached office building, which cost a total of a $127,250. Hangar Two was built a few years later. Today, those original aircraft maintenance hangars are home to the Delta Flight Museum. In 2011, the location was designated a Historic Aerospace Site.
In the last 75 years, Atlanta has blossomed into an international city that’s home to major sports teams, world-renowned research facilities, Fortune 500 companies, the recent film industry boom that’s earned it the nickname “the Hollywood of the South” and the world’s busiest airport by passenger volume.
Now with more than 30,000 Delta employees based in Atlanta, the airline’s main hub of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is estimated to pump $65 billion into the local economy.
“For the past 75 years, Delta Air Lines has been a leader in the global aviation industry, and we are proud to have them as our hometown carrier," said Hartsfield-Jackson General Manager Miguel Southwell. "As the first airport in the world to serve more than 100 million passengers, Delta's success and support have been instrumental in making Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport the world's most traveled and most efficient airport."
Delta also plays an important role in its hometown community, contributing to numerous organizations, including the Atlanta Business League, the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Covenant House of Georgia, Habitat for Humanity International, Junior Achievement, KaBOOM!, Marine Toys for Tots, Metro Atlanta Chamber, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, the United Way of Greater Atlanta, the Woodruff Arts Center and the YMCA.
For example, Delta employees have built more than 230 Habitat houses in metro Atlanta during the past 14 years. And just last year, Atlanta employees donated 4,435 pints of blood to the American Red Cross, helping Delta become the sixth-largest corporate donor in the U.S.
“The massive economic impact and multitude of jobs Delta has provided to Georgians have been critical to the state's prosperity. - Gov. Nathan Deal
Delta and The Delta Foundation also sponsor key higher education institutions including Georgia Tech, Georgia State and the University of Georgia, as well as scholarships at Morehouse College, Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University.
Continuing to raise the bar on its seven decades of success, Delta flew into the history books with a record-breaking 2015. Last year, the airline reported a historic pre-tax profit of $5.9 billion and led the industry in operational excellence with a record 214 days with zero domestic mainline cancellations and a strong on-time rate of 85.9 percent.
Last month, Delta gave its employees $1.5 billion in profit sharing, the largest bonus payout in U.S. history – including $540 million in metro Atlanta alone. And just last week the airline pledged to donate 1 percent of net income to charities around the world.
“Delta’s brand is synonymous with Georgia, and after 75 years, we are prouder than ever to have Delta’s headquarters in our state,” said U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. “Delta’s corporate citizenship is a great asset to our state and I look forward to seeing what the next 75 years bring.”
"Delta Air Lines and Atlanta have a special relationship that has been inextricably linked to the success and prosperity of our city and our airport for three quarters of a century.The strong bond between Delta and local leaders, institutions and civic organizations helps make Atlanta one of the leading cities in the world and a great place to live and do business. Congratulations to Delta and all of its employees on the company's 75th anniversary as Atlanta's hometown airline.” - Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed
Graphic by Courtney Williams. Click here for larger image.