Ed Bastian and Glen Hauenstein

Glen Hauenstein (GH):  So Ed, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Ed Bastian (EB): I wanted to be a baseball player.  I'm from a big family, as you know; I'm the oldest of nine children.  And it's nine people to make a baseball team.  It was always conducive to my dream.  The reality is, I wasn't very good, and so I decided to focus on studies.

GH:  When I was a kid we always used to take our vacations to Florida.  And I was always in charge of the family's reservations.  So I probably should've known then that I would wind up in the airline business.  The only way to do it--there was no internet--you had to call.  And I would keep calling back, and keep calling back, and keep calling back the airlines, and always hoping that I could find a seat on Delta, because it was the premium brand.  

EB:  I did no grow up with an airline background.  The first time I ever stepped foot on an airplane I was 25 years old.

GH:  That's amazing.

EB:   I didn't even know when I graduated from college where I was going to be.  So I'd really come to rely upon your innate knowledge and the creativity and that genius you have for growing our business.  And that I think together with my background I think is going to really do wonders for future growth in this industry.   So Glen, we met in 2005, and it was a very, very different company then, a very different time.  Why did you join Delta Air Lines?

GH:   I was interviewing for the job of chief commercial officer at Air Canada.  I was in Montreal, and I got a call on my cell phone from Jerry Grinstein, who was then the CEO at Delta.  And he said to me, "We're in a heap of trouble down here, and we were wondering if you could come talk to us about joining the team."  And at that moment I thought to myself, "This is my dream come true," because I knew when he called me that it was going to be a great fit.  And we had what I thought was a great interview.  And from that day I was just so excited about the potential.  And I wrote him a nice long letter when I got back to Rome, and I told him that I wanted to be on the team that restored this iconic brand to its rightful position in the airline industry.

EB: You don't often in one's career get to reinvent a 75-year-old company and breathe new life into it.  And for me that was the exciting part of the journey as well.  One of the proudest moments in my career I'll always look back to, we relit the "Fly Delta Jet" sign over the Atlanta maintenance base, which was always a beacon in the sky in the southeast as the planes were coming in in the evening.  It was the same day that we found out that the creditors were going to reject the US Air hostile takeover and stay with Delta and invest in the people of Delta to let us out of the bankruptcy.  And we relit the light.  We celebrated our freedom.  It was a great evening.