Stephanie Asbury and Joanne Smith

Joanne Smith (JS): I remember my very first flight on Delta the flight attendants brought my daughters--they were two and four, I think--like a cranberry juice and Sprite with a teeny-tiny bit of dry ice in it.   That, you know, epitomizes the Delta brand.  I was a hero to my children on that flight.  

Stephanie Asbury (SA): Yeah, I've been flying Delta for 30 years, so I could really see a change in this pride in the company coming through in the last, I'd say, five to ten years.  People love their jobs, people were just so happy to be on the plane and taking care of customers.  And I saw that transformation take place.

JS:   We had been through some hard times, and then mergers are always hard to go through, and you kind of break the trust of your people.  It will just bring a kind of a downer to the organization.  And yet there were so many good people still here and good leaders.   But people really believe in what we stand for here, and it feels like you're just in a revival.  I mean, it's really special to watch.  And that's what you want--you want employees feeling proud of what they do every day.  Because God knows we spend a lot of time on the job [LAUGHTER], and it's an important piece to be happy with what you're doing and proud of what you're doing.

SA: So being here for as long as you have, and me being new, what are those obstacles that you think that we'll face?

JS: I think the obstacles mostly is complacency.  People that have joined the company in the last five years have only seen really good times, continuous improvement.  We have to keep that up.  We don't want to forget where we've come from, but we have to have an eye on the future.  How do we become a brand that customers love?

SA: If we don't surround ourselves by people who are challenging us and thinking differently, then I think our culture and our business model as we move forward would be at risk.  The answers and the ideas sit within our organization.  It's how do we get that out of them?   And I think Delta does a great job of that today, but we have to continue to do that.  We're going to have little blips in the road along the way.  But how we prepare for those, how we think about what could happen and really strategize, is key to our success.   One of the things I love is when you say "moments that matter."

JS: I'm welling up here because there are moments that matter to me.  In your moment of need, Delta leaders, Richard Anderson or Ed Bastian or any of my leaders would call me.  And it's not just them; it's everybody.  And that's what we do so well here.

SA: I remember I started here and we had a family crisis the first week.  And I apologized for leaving a meeting and running back to my office.  And I turn around, I have four people following me--"What can we do?  What do you need?"   I heard somebody standing outside my office door that day and said, "Stephanie may not realize that we're a family here, but she's going to."