Air Transport World


Atlantic Southeast Airlines had a habit of alienating customers all the way to the bank; its new owner aims to make passengers smile

"Our goal is for customers to perceive that the only difference between ASA and Delta is the size of the aircraft," says Barnette, a 29-year Delta veteran. Part of the problem at ASA, he insists, was that "the employees didn't have a lot of confidence in the previous management's understanding of what is needed, on the customer-service side particularly."

Skip Barnette is a busy man these days. The new CEO of Delta Air Lines' recently acquired subsidiary, Atlantic Southeast Airlines, had just returned from a grueling 22-city, 3-1/2-day tour of the ASA network. His message to employees: This boss is not the same as the old boss, their jobs are secure, their opinions matter, and Delta will provide the necessary tools to improve the product.

That is putting it mildly. Passenger complaints levied against this highly visible Connection partner over the years played a major role in Delta's acquisition of ASA last spring for $34 a share in cash--roughly $700 million.

Much of what Barnette says might be tossed off as the typical hype of a new CEO wanting to make a good impression, except for what has been accomplished since the acquisition. That and the fact that Delta President and CEO Leo Mullin has said publicly that he no longer will allow this complaint-laden Regional to poison the Delta well.

Currently underway is a $4 million enhancement of ASA's facilities at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport. The makeover includes two new hold areas on C Concourse, where ASA uses gates C21 to C37. More ground service equipment has been purchased and two fuel pits have been built near the concourse to provide greater operational efficiency. …

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