Problems at Delta Airlines

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

Case Details:


Case Code : BSTR135 For delivery in electronic format: Rs. 500;
For delivery through courier (within India): Rs. 500 + Rs. 25 for Shipping & Handling Charges


Organizational Culture
Case Length : 18 Pages
Period : 2001 - 2004
Organization : Delta Airlines
Pub Date : 2004
Teaching Note : Available
Countries : U.S.A
Industry : Airlines


Delta Air Lines was the third biggest airlines in the US in the early 2000s. After the September 11 attacks, which led to the decline of the airline industry in the US, many of the major carriers in the industry went bankrupt. Delta was one of the few major carriers that managed to stay afloat. However, in mid 2004, the airline announced that it might have to file for bankruptcy protection if it failed to obtain pay cuts of $1 billion from its pilots, who were the only unionized employees at the airline. The case discusses the problems at Delta and their role in the financial decline of the airline. Issues like the pilot union impasse, increasing operational expenses and legacy costs, falling yields and severe competition from low cost airlines are discussed in detail. The case also outlines the restructuring plan of Delta, and the future of Song, the airline's low cost subsidiary.


To appreciate the issues facing airlines in the early 2000s, which were thought to be the most difficult years in the history of airlines

To analyze the problems facing a major full service carrier in the US airline industry

To understand the power of unionized labor in the US airline industry

To study the increasing power of low cost airlines in the US and the sources of their competitive advantage

To examine the restructuring plan of an airline on the verge of bankruptcy and to analyze its potential efficacy in restoring the airline to profitability


  Page No.
Delta's Restructuring Plan 1
Background 2
Delta's Difficulties 4
Pilot Problems 6
The Road Ahead 8
Exhibits 11


Case, Delta Airlines, Chapter 11 Filing, Hub and Spoke Model, JetBlue, AirTran SkyTeam, 'Song', Legacy Costs, Delta Pilot Retirement Plan, Point-to-Point Flying, Organizational Culture, US Airline Industry, United Airlines, US Airways, 'The Delta Solution'

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