Air Transport World

En route with Leo Mullin.

Onboard his airline's first 777, Delta's president and CEO talks about alliances, the Internet and domestic competition

These are heady days for Leo Mullin, president and CEO of Delta Air Lines. Not only was Delta selected as ATW's Airline of the Year for 1998 (ATW, 2/99, p. 38), but at a time when several of its competitors reported declining earnings Delta maintained momentum, posting an 11% rise in net income for the quarter ended March 31 on a 3% increase in operating revenues (see article, p. 113).

Delta also took delivery recently of the first two of seven Rolls-Royce Trent 800-powered 777-200s scheduled to arrive this year. The twinjets, destined to replace the airline's MD11s as the flagships of the fleet, also are the top-of-the-line launch pad for Delta's new Business Elite product that replaces separate first and. business sections on intercontinental flights.

On the 777, the Business Elite cabin offers an extremely generous 2-2-2 arrangement and 60-in, seat pitch. The coach section, configured in what is fast becoming the standard 777 arrangement of 2-5-2, has a few pleasant surprises as well, including seats with inflatable lumbar support and individual seatback monitors.

Although clearly pleased with the aircraft and excited about the opportunities they present for Delta, Mullin demonstrated an outsider's detachment from the romance of the big jets by postponing four 777s scheduled to be delivered between December 1999 and April 2000 because he was unhappy with the tempo and tone of contract negotiations regarding pay and work rules for 777 cockpit crew. …

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