Skift Take

It's little surprise that the CEO of most America's most financially sound big airline, Ed Bastian of Delta, was also the highest paid. But how does he stack up to his peers?

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian was the best paid U.S. airline CEO last year. His compensation package included a tidy sum of $12.4 million — $2.5 million more than his closest peer — in mostly stock awards during the year.

Asked of Bastian’s leading compensation in the sector, a Delta spokesperson emphasized the Atlanta-based carrier’s “pay for performance” philosophy for not only management but across its work groups. Roughly 94 percent of Bastian’s compensation was based on Delta meeting financial, operational, and customer service goals set by its board’s personnel and compensation committee, according to an annual securities filing.

Delta posted a $3.4 billion pre-tax adjusted loss in 2021 as it recovered from the coronavirus pandemic. Operationally it completed 99.4 percent of its flights with 88 percent of domestic flights arriving on time. But in terms of customer service, the airline improved its standing in the eyes of many consumers when it kept middle seats blocked — a pandemic-era policy to allow social distancing onboard implemented when demand was at historic lows — until May, months later than all other carriers.

And, one cannot forget, that with a significant portion of Bastian’s salary paid in stock — and valued based on its stock price on one day, February 3 — the actual dollar amount can fluctuate greatly depending on the day.

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby followed