"I Was Surprised As You Were"
It was a meeting intended to discuss
measures to head off travel delays over the upcoming holiday
season... but instead, Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson spent
most of his time before Congress Thursday downplaying recent
reports of an imminent merger.
As ANN reported, on Wednesday
news surfaced Delta and United Airlines were in negotiations to
join forces as soon as possible. The resulting mega-airline would
carry the United name, and be headquartered in Chicago, an unnamed
source told The Associated Press. Delta's current headquarters in
Atlanta, GA would be repurposed as an operations center, according
to the report.
After refusing to comment throughout most of the day, late
Wednesday evening executives at both Delta and United strongly
denied the reports, saying in essence the source didn't know what
he or she was talking about. Some suggested the rumor was a trial
balloon sent up by an investment hedge fund with shares in both
"I haven't had a conversation, at all, with any executive since
I came back to the airline industry," Anderson (right) told the
Atlanta Journal-Constitution late Wednesday. "The last time I had a
conversation with [United Chairman CEO Glenn F.] Tilton was at an
[Air Transport Association] meeting three or four years ago."
The rumors have since subsided... though Georgia lawmakers,
leery of the possibility Atlanta could lose one of its most
prominent businesses if Delta was absorbed into another airline,
still wanted reassurance Delta plans to stay put in the Peach
During Thursday's hearing before a House transportation
subcommittee, Georgia Congressman Lynn Westmoreland challenged
Anderson to assure him "eyeball to eyeball" Delta was not involved
in merger talks with United Airlines.
The Delta CEO didn't blink. "I was as surprised as you were,"
Anderson told Westmoreland. "There are no discussions. There have
been no discussions."
Westmoreland -- once a Delta employee, along with his daughter
and wife -- told Anderson "we don't want the family to move
north... I'm asking you to keep the family informed."
Anderson said he would do so... adding he expects rumors of
possible mergers to only increase in the coming weeks, the result
of a push for increasing consolidation throughout the industry.