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达美航空:飞出乌云,又见湍流

Shawn Tully 2018年12月09日

在CEO艾德·巴斯蒂安的领导下,达美航空成了美国“三大航”中利润最高和最可靠的航空公司。随着经济下行压力加剧,他是否还能继续带领达美航空保持高速增长?

位于盐湖城的美国大酒店迎来了一场盛大表演,在“葡萄牙人”乐队的一首《Feel it Still》中,200多名达美航空的员工轮流等待着与公司的CEO艾德·巴斯蒂安自拍的机会。巴斯蒂安一头银发,穿着剪裁合体的西装、黑色网球鞋,戴一副黑框玳瑁眼镜。他用胳膊搂着一名壮实的行李搬运工的肩膀,这个哥们儿下去后,又上来两名穿着公司新派发的“护照紫”制服的空乘。粉丝们会挨个儿将手机递给巴斯蒂安的一名助理,助理则在电脑上挨个核对名单,以确保人人都能得到与老板的自拍。

据说在每次类似的活动上,巴斯蒂安都会坚持一直站在那里充当“人肉背景板”,直到所有排队的人都拿到了和老板的自拍。今天的自拍活动就持续了一个多小时。31岁的空乘丹妮尔·斯特里克兰表示:“作为空姐,我们经常会遇到名人,但我一直都不是一个追星族。这是我第一次跟艾德·巴斯蒂安合影,但是我已经被他迷住了。”

IT’S SHOWTIME at Salt Lake City’s Grand America Hotel. As the bouncy groove of “Feel It Still” by the band Portugal. The Man pulsates through the cavernous ballroom, some 200 Delta Air Lines employees wait their turn for a selfie with CEO Ed Bastian. Sporting a slim-tailored suit, black designer tennis shoes, and tortoise-shell glasses, the 6-foot-2, silver-haired Bastian poses with an arm thrown over the shoulder of a burly baggage handler, then trades grins with a duo of flight attendants clad in newly issued uniforms whose deep purple hue their designer, Zac Posen, dubs “Passport Plum.” The fans relay their cell phones in a constant stream to a Bastian aide who clicks away so that everybody gets a souvenir.

Bastian reputedly never leaves a selfie session until the procession is finished, and today, the parade lasts over an hour. “We meet celebrities all the time, and I’m never starstruck,” says flight attendant Danielle Strickland, 31. “But this was the first time I got a picture with Ed Bastian, and I was starstruck.”

盐湖城的“天鹅绒”见面会快结束时,巴斯蒂安与达美航空的一名员工在自拍。图片来源:Courtesy of Delta

这正是达美航空“天鹅绒”见面会上的一个片断。“天鹅绒”是巴斯蒂安在达美航空陷入破产困境时,为鼓舞士气而举办的一个内部活动。现在,“天鹅绒”活动每月会在达美航空的一个枢纽城市举办一次。巴斯蒂安首先会发表一通鼓舞人心的演讲,然后是文艺表演和大家喜闻乐见的自拍环节。每次“天鹅绒”活动气氛之狂热,不亚于一场政客的拜票会。盐湖城的这次活动选在了9月的一个周二,气氛也是一如既往的热烈。巴斯蒂安先是对呼叫中心的订票专员讲话,接着对盐湖城国际机场的地勤人员讲话,然后视察了公司耗资35亿美元新建的航站楼。接着,他走进飞行员休息室,跟疲惫的机长们聊了一会儿天。全程都有一位摄像师寸步不离地跟着他。在此行的每个环节,巴斯蒂安都会抽出时间回答员工的问题。达美航空的内部网站专门开辟了一个叫“问艾德任何问题”的视频专栏,用来向员工喊话,此行的一些精彩时刻无疑也会被剪辑发布在这里。

在航空业的资深观察人士看来,巴斯蒂安抓队伍士气的本事,颇有业内两位前辈的遗风:一是大陆航空的CEO戈登·贝休恩,二是西南航空的联合创始人赫布·凯莱赫。不过那两位大佬举止粗放豪爽,巴斯蒂安则更彬彬有礼。这一路虽然行程匆忙,但他显得沉稳放松,全程脱稿演讲,侃侃而谈。

最重要的是,他的讲话总能引起很大反响。在盐湖城的这次活动上,他的话拨起了老员工的心弦:“看看我们经历了什么!我们经历了破产,经历了西北航空的并购,经历了油价的起起落落。我们拥有的不多,但我们拥有彼此!”几分钟后,他又谈起了收入问题:“明年情人节,我们要连续第五年拿出10亿美元分红!”接下来是他的宏伟蓝图:“我们就是美国的王,是全国当之无愧的冠军,但是我们的未来是全世界,世界就是我们的奥运赛场。”

这番鼓舞人心的言语以巴斯蒂安的男中音说出,令人听来特别舒服。他似乎也对自己“打鸡血”的本事十分自信。不过也许用不了多久,他就会发现,队伍士气不像原来那样好鼓舞了。随着经济放缓和利润缩水,达美航空面临的形势极为严峻。如果公司不能将战略执行到近乎完美的程度,公司所有的利益相关者——从推轮椅的行李搬运工,到身家几百亿的机构投资者,恐怕都会对他这碗鸡血产生免疫了。

在美国三大全球性航空公司中(另两家是美国航空和联合大陆航空),达美航空的运营最好、利润最高,巴斯蒂安力推的“员工和谐”显然是一大功臣。今年,达美航空的准点率达到了85%,超过了联合大陆航空、美国航空(这两家都是80%),以及美国最大的廉价航空公司——西南航空(79%)。它的座公里收入(指航空公司运送1名旅客飞行1公里带来的收入)也比竞争对手平均高出19%。

The occasion is a “Velvet” (for “velvet rope”), a conclave Bastian created in the dark days when Delta was mired in bankruptcy. He now holds Velvets once a month in one of the airline’s hub cities. Bastian headlines each extravaganza with an early morning pep talk, followed by the photo op. Then he embarks on meet-and-greets with local employees that proceed at the frenzied pace of a political campaign. This Tuesday in September is no exception, with the CEO delivering speeches to reservation agents at a regional call center and then to ground workers at Salt Lake City International Airport; touring the construction site of Delta’s new $3.5 billion terminal there; and strolling into the pilots’ break room to chat up blasé-looking captains. Bastian—trailed by a video cameraman—finds time at each stop to answer questions, fodder for spots on the “Ask Ed Anything” internal video site that channels his message to employees.

To veteran airline-watchers, Bastian’s knack for courting employees calls to mind two past industry leaders famous for rallying the troops: former Continental CEO Gordon ¬Bethune and Southwest cofounder Herb Kelleher. But while those chieftains were folksy, flamboyant, and even profane, Bastian’s style is different. If Bethune and Kelleher were brass bands, Bastian’s a smooth jazz ensemble. Through the headlong rush, he comes off as coolly relaxed. His talks, delivered sans notes, flow in paragraphs uninterrupted by the usual “you knows” and “I means.”

Most of all, Bastian hits notes that get big reactions. At the Salt Lake City Velvet, he tugged at veteran workers’ heartstrings: “Look where we’ve come from! Through bankruptcy, the Northwest merger, fuel going up and down. We didn’t have much, but we had each other!” Minutes later, it was all about pay. “We’ll deliver over $1 billion to you in profit sharing on Valentine’s Day for the fifth year in a row.” Next up, the Big Vision: “We’re king of the U.S., the undisputed national champion,” he declared. “But our future is global. The world is the Olympics.”

Rah-rah hyperbole sounds comfortable in Bastian’s baritone. He seems to know the cheerleader role fits him like his designer sneakers. But he may soon find himself working harder than ever to rally the troops. Rough air looms for Delta, in the form of shrinking profits and a slowing economy. And if the company doesn’t execute its strategy to near-perfection, all of its stakeholders—from wheelchair-pushing porters to billionaire institutional investors—are going to need a lot more cheering up.

The worker harmony that Bastian does so much to promote is a major reason Delta is the best-run, most profitable carrier among the Big Three U.S. global airlines, a group that includes American and United Continental. This year, Delta’s on-time arrival record of 85% is tops among the giants, waxing United and American (both 80%) while also besting Southwest, the biggest domestic budget carrier (79%). For every mile it flies one seat in the U.S., Delta collects 19% more in revenues, on average, than its rivals.

涂装作业中的空客A220支线客机。图片来源:Courtesy of Delta

达美航空的成功有两方面原因,一是它拥有行业最强的机场网络。与其他航空公司相比,达美航空拥有更多航空枢纽,如亚特兰大机场、底特律机场、盐湖城机场等,也就是说,它在很多航线上面临的竞争并不激烈,包括来自廉价航空公司的竞争。同时,达美航空也在积极增加飞往纽约、波士顿、洛杉矶、旧金山、西雅图等大型沿海城市的航班。这些航线对商务旅客的争夺虽然十分激烈,但这也正体现了达美航空的第二大优势:它的可靠性和机上服务非常值得称道。这也吸引了很多企业客户的青睐,从而为达美航空带来了更多利润。差旅管理公司Advito的全球航空业务副总裁奥利维尔·贝诺伊特指出:“达美航空在服务和运营表现方面做出大量投资,这意味着在同等价格下,企业客户将更倾向于选择达美航空。”

就算有这些优势,达美航空也未必会像巴斯蒂安在盐湖城承诺的那样继续保持稳步增长。即便作为“三大航”中表现最优秀的航空公司,达美航空也需要卓越的战略执行才能保持繁荣,这也侧面说明了行业发展面临的困境。近年来,达美航空的利润较2015年至2016年的高峰期有了显著下滑。达美航空在员工薪酬和设备升级上做出了大量投资,这些战略举措虽然提高了公司在员工和消费者心中的形象,但也成为了影响公司盈利能力的重要原因。虽然最近的油价上涨也是影响利润的一个重要因素,但过去四年间,该公司与燃料成本无关的支出(如工资等)增长很快,远远超过了收入的增长速度。今年也不例外,波士顿的研究机构Trefis在最近的一份报告中称:“沉重的成本损害了达美航空的利润。”该公司预测,到2022年,达美航空的现金流将下降11%。

由于投资者对这些数据感到担忧,达美航空的股票也跑输了大盘。自2017年年初以来,它的股价大约上涨了15%,同期标普500指数的涨幅则达到了25%。投资者衡量一只股票前景的重要指标是市盈率,达美航空目前的市盈率只有10.1倍,远低于标普500指数的21.1倍,只勉强与美国航空和联合大陆航空持平。这说明无论是机构还是散户投资者,都认为美国的全球性航空公司是日薄西山的夕阳产业,未来的收益只会逐年下降。

成本并不是影响达美航空利润的唯一因素,宏观经济衰退(哪怕是比较温和的经济放缓)也会扼杀近期公司收益的回升趋势。欧洲是达美航空增长最快的市场,但英国脱欧引发的动荡很可能给其欧洲业务造成重大影响。信用卡业务是航空业一个很少有人关注但利润丰厚的业务,但随着信用卡市场的竞争严重加剧,达美航空与美国运通共同推出的SkyMiles信用卡业务也必然会受到冲击。

在这样阴云密布的气候中,要想将达美航空带向新的高度,就需要一位杰出的机长。巴斯蒂安现年61岁,曾任公司的财务总监,于2016年年中出任CEO一职。巴斯蒂安制定了一个“两手抓”计划:一手抓成本,也就是要将成本保持在一个更可控的水平上;一手抓增收,增收一靠扩展国际市场,二靠继续挖掘信用卡业务的潜力。

巴斯蒂安的办公室位于达美航空亚特兰大总部园区的一栋古色古香的二层小楼,这里也是达美航空创始人科莱特·伍尔曼曾经工作的地方。在这里,巴斯蒂安向我们解释了他的蓝图:“过去几年,我们的成本上涨了不少……有部分原因是,公司在破产之后进行了大量裁员,我们需要补充这部分劳动力。不过现在我们已经补充完了。”

接着他又表示,美国的航空市场已经非常成熟了,所以“从长期看,我们想把国际收入占总收入的比例从现在的35%提高到50%。”这一战略能否能够使达美航空的营运利润率回升到2015年到2016年的16%的水平?对此,巴斯蒂安解释道:“当时的局势对我们很有利,因为油价刚刚下跌了,而商务机票的票价还保持在比较高的水平。”他虽然显得很有信心,但当被问到具体的增长目标时,他还是表现得十分谨慎,并承认“干这一行必须要谦虚”。

The reasons for that rich premium are twofold. The first is the industry’s strongest airport network. Delta commands more fortress hubs—Atlanta, Minneapolis, Detroit, and Salt Lake City among them—than any other airline, which means it has more routes on which it faces less competition, including from low-cost carriers. Overall, Delta has also been the most aggressive in adding flights to big coastal cities like New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, where the battle for business customers is fierce. That battle is a showcase for Delta’s second advantage: Its superior reliability and onboard service, which tilt corporate business toward the carrier, bringing the airline a more lucrative and profitable mix of traffic. “Delta’s investment in service and operating performance means that at the same price, companies will lean toward choosing Delta,” says Olivier Benoit, VP of the global air practice at Advito, a firm that manages travel programs for large companies.

But despite all those advantages, the smooth ascent that Bastian promises in Salt Lake City will prove difficult to achieve. It’s a gauge of how tough the business has become that the best of the Big Three will need brilliant navigation to keep thriving. Put simply, Delta’s profits have been heading in the wrong direction, falling sharply from the peaks of 2015 and 2016. And the same strategic moves that have burnished the airline’s image with employees and consumers—big investments in worker compensation and equipment upgrades—are now among the factors weakening its profitability. While rising fuel prices are a factor, Delta’s non-fuel expenses, led by labor, have been rising rapidly for the past four years, far outpacing revenues. This year has been no exception: Boston research firm Trefis stated in a recent report that “Heavy costs are hurting margins” at Delta; Trefis projects that Delta’s cash flows will decline by 11% by 2022.

As investors fret over these numbers, Delta’s stock has lagged the market. Since the beginning of 2017, it has risen 15% vs. 25% for the S&P 500. The best measure for how investors assess its prospects is its trailing price-to-earnings multiple: Delta’s P/E stands at just 10.1, well below the S&P’s 21.1 and almost identical to those of American and United. Those puny P/Es signal that individuals and institutions voting with their dollars view America’s global airlines as lumbering legacies whose earnings will decline steadily in the years ahead.

Costs are hardly the only factor narrowing Delta’s margin for error. A recession, or even a more modest slowdown, could reverse a recent resurgence in fares and revenues. Europe has become Delta’s fastest-growing market, but turbulence from Brexit could halt the upswing. And heavy competition in the credit card market could drain the little-noticed but deep pool of profits that Delta shares with American Express through its SkyMiles credit card.

Given the cloudy outlook, taking Delta to new heights will require brilliant piloting. And Bastian, 61, a former CFO and crack numbers man who took the corporate captain’s seat in mid-2016, knows it. His plan rests on two legs: holding costs to a more manageable rate and expanding revenues faster—chiefly by expanding where the big growth is, in international markets, and continuing to exploit that under¬appreciated credit card partnership.

In a wood-paneled office once occupied by Delta’s principal founder, C.E. Woolman, in a quaint, two-story brick building resembling an oversize cottage on Delta’s Atlanta campus, Bastian explains his blueprint. “In the past couple of years, we had a lot of cost inflation … in part because we still needed to catch up on labor from the big cuts following our bankruptcy,” he says. “But now we’re caught up.”

The U.S., he continues, is a mature airline market today, so “in the long-term, we want to lift our international revenues from around 35% of the total to 50%.” Will that strategy lift Delta’s operating margins back to their 16% peak of 2015 and 2016? “That was a sweet spot because oil prices had dropped, but business fares were still high,” he explains. He projects confidence, but when pressed for specific targets, he gets a little more reticent, admitting, “This business is humbling.”

***

虽然巴斯蒂安执掌达美航空只有两年半,但他已经帮助公司结束了长达20年的动荡。

巴斯蒂安自幼在纽约州的波基普西市长大,家中有兄弟姐妹九个,巴斯蒂安是家中长子。他的父亲是一名牙医,母亲是牙医助理。在他小时候,他家人心目中的“豪华旅行”就是全家挤在一辆旅行车里,然后开车去佛罗里达度寒假。巴斯蒂安直到25岁才第一次坐飞机。

不过那时,巴斯蒂安已经在会计界小有名气了。大学毕业后,他以审计员的身份就职普华永道,不久后他便揭露了智威汤逊公司(J. Walter Thompson)的大规模欺诈案。当时智威汤逊主要经营电视广告业务,在1981年的年度审计中,巴斯蒂安发现该公司故意记入了5000万美元的虚假收入。此事促使美国证监会针对该公司展开了调查,并影响了好几位普华永道合伙人的职业生命,但巴斯蒂安自己的事业却就此一飞冲天,他年仅31岁便成了普华永道的合伙人。巴斯蒂安有一个令人羡慕的“特权”,就是监督MTV音乐录影大奖的投票,每年的颁奖典礼上,他都会穿着燕尾服,将计票结果递给现场的颁奖嘉宾。巴斯蒂安回忆道,有一年,朋克巨星比利·艾多尔拿过了计票结果,将它塞到了他的紧身裤里,等现场摄像机开始录像时,再把它从裤子拉链里拿出来。

此后,巴斯蒂安曾在百事可乐旗下的菲多利公司担任8年的财务经理,然后于1998年进入达美航空任财务主管。21世纪初的那几年,由于油价飙升,加之来自廉价航空公司的竞争加剧,达美航空的业务遭遇了重大威胁,公司不得不降薪以度时艰。与此同时,公司的高管们却想方设法地要保住自己的退休金和所谓的“留职”奖金,哪怕在公司破产重组期间也是如此。时任公司主管的杰瑞·格林斯坦恩回忆道:“员工们都降了薪,却发现他们的老板们留在公司居然还有奖金拿。”在这种背景下,巴斯蒂安于2004年年初从公司辞职,去了亚特兰大的一家照明控制工厂当CFO。6个月后,格林斯坦恩在董事会斗争中被扶上了 CEO宝座。他约巴斯蒂安在一家星巴克见面,并邀请他回来当达美航空的CFO,任务是拯救达美航空,薪水则只有他在那家照明工厂的一半。

2005年,达美航空正式申请破产。在巴斯蒂安看来,这一招好比破解珍珑棋局,只有向死求生,才是唯一的取胜之道。在破产保护期间,巴斯蒂安成了达美航空复兴计划的主要制定者,他制定的战略基本确定了直至今日达美航空的发展路径。为了让员工拥护他的复兴蓝图,2006年,他在亚特兰大的一家梅西百货里举办了第一场“天鹅绒”活动。他向员工宣告:达美航空将凭借卓越的可靠性和客户服务,重新崛起为一家高端航空公司,收取比其他航空公司更高的价格,在美国航空业中脱颖而出。他承诺将把员工基本工资提高到有竞争力的水平。他还提出了一项时至今日仍在实施的利润分享计划:如果达美航空再次振兴了,员工也将切实分享公司崛起的红利。虽然当时达美航空每年的亏损达几十亿美元,但工人们自发支持巴斯蒂安的愿景。2006年,当达美航空面临美国航空的恶意收购时,员工们自发挥舞标语抵制,标语上写着:“留住达美,我的达美!”

在巴斯蒂安的领导下,达美航空与债权人进行了18个月的激烈谈判,终于使得达美航空在2007年4月脱离破产。据他的同事称,巴斯蒂安的精力极为充沛,要求也很高。曾与他共事过的大卫波克律师事务所的合伙人马歇尔·休伯纳回忆道:“我这辈子从来没有被逼得这么狠过,简直是被他抽着鞭子驱赶着。不过等到工作结束后,他给我写了一封两页纸的信,是用钢笔写的。信上说如果不是我,他根本无法完成这项工作。”

他的下一个任务,是领导两家航空公司的合并——要知道,并购有时也经常会带来灾难。2008年,刚刚走出破产保护不久的达美航空收购了西北航空。接下来的两年里,巴斯蒂安顺利地将两家公司的机队和员工进行了整合,导演了堪称航空业最完美的一场联姻。2007年,曾任西北航空首席执行官的理查德·安德森成为达美航空CEO,他立即委任巴斯蒂安为公司总裁,两人在一起共事了八年半。安德森主要抓运营、机队管理、机场升级和内部维保,巴斯蒂安则主抓对外合作,在他的促成下,达美航空建立了美国航空业最大的海外合作网络,其合作伙伴包括维珍大西洋航空、墨西哥航空、巴西戈尔航空、中国东方航空等;达美航空还与大韩航空建立了合资公司。总之,合作是巴斯蒂安的一个重要战略。

当时,公司上下早已认可巴斯蒂安是安德森的接班人了。2016年5月,巴斯蒂安毫无悬念地接过了CEO大印。然而真正让他在全美国知名的,却是一场始料未及的事件——与全美步枪协会的冲突。今年3月,佛罗里达州帕克兰市的一所高中发生大规模枪击案,事发后,巴斯蒂安收到了来自帕克兰的学生的邮件,这些邮件让他注意到,达美航空向全美步枪协会的会员们提供了参加该协会年会的折扣机票。当时,全美步枪协会的一位发言人在回应外界对该协会的批评时曾表示:“传统媒体的很多人最喜欢大规模枪击案”,还称“哭泣的白人妈妈是收视率冠军”。这番话让巴斯蒂安深感震惊。作为对此言论的回应,达美航空取消了对那些机票的折扣。

尽管当时只有13名会员使用了这个折扣,但全美步枪协会仍对达美航空此举极为不满。乔治亚州的参议院威胁道,如果达美航空不恢复对全美步枪协会会员的折扣,该州就将阻止一项燃油免税法案的通过——该法案本可为达美航空每年节省4000万美元。巴斯蒂安拒绝了佐治亚州参议院的提议,这项税收减免政策也因此被取消了。但他的立场却极大提升了达美航空的形象。巴斯蒂安向员工发布的一份备忘录称:“我们的价值是不能买卖的。”这份备忘录也被媒体广泛转载。此后巴斯蒂安也在一系列公共场合中坚定维护公司的立场。巴斯蒂安在接受《财富》杂志采访时表示,达美航空的立场并不是为了树立品牌形象,但它恰恰实现了这个目标:“我们赢得了很多粉丝。”

英国维珍大西洋航空创始人、总裁理查理查德·布兰森爵士也对巴斯蒂安的立场表示赞赏。他说:“我十分赞成他,商业领袖不能把所有问题留给政客。”除了在重大问题上立志一致,两位航空大佬在其他场合也会经常共同出席——特别是自从2013年达美航空收购维珍大西洋航空49%的股权以来。在最近亚特兰大的一场募捐活动上,布兰森还拿出一把剪刀,剪断了巴斯蒂安的领带。(布兰森说:“他应该跟我一样,穿一件敞开的衬衫。”)不过布兰森虽然讨厌巴斯蒂安的领带,却非常喜欢他的鞋子。最近有一次他们一起在达美航空总部出席活动,布兰森突然跪下来,脱掉了巴斯蒂安穿着的一双1500美元的伯鲁提运动鞋(这是巴斯蒂安的女友送给他的礼物),然后穿到了自己脚上。布兰森在最近的一次采访中说:“我把它偷来了,他这下可要不回去了,我现在就穿着它呢。”

Though bastian has been CEO for only 2½ years, he’s already helped steer Delta through two decades of turbulence.

The oldest of nine children, Bastian grew up in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. His father was a dentist who worked from a home office; Bastian’s mother served as the dental assistant. His family’s idea of luxury travel involved cramming everyone into a station wagon and driving to Florida for a winter vacation; Bastian didn’t board a plane for the first time until he was 25.

By then, he had already made a name for himself in accounting. Shortly after joining Price Waterhouse just out of college as an auditor, Bastian discovered massive fraud at the ad giant J. Walter Thompson. During a 1981 annual review, Bastian found that the JWT business that syndicated TV shows and sold spots on those shows to advertisers had booked $50 million in phony revenues. The scandal prompted an SEC investigation and damaged the careers of several Price Waterhouse partners, but it boosted Bastian’s stock: He made partner at age 31. One of his perks was supervising voting for the MTV Video Music Awards, where Bastian would appear onstage in a tux to hand ballots to rock-star presenters. One year, Bastian recalls, punk rocker Billy Idol took his ballot and stuck it in his skintight pants, then pulled it out through his fly as the cameras rolled.

After an eight-year stint as a financial manager at PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay subsidiary, Bastian joined Delta in 1998 as controller. When soaring oil prices and competition from low-cost carriers hammered Delta in the early 2000s, the airline began slashing wages, at the same time that top executives granted themselves pension plans protected even in bankruptcy, along with “retention” bonuses. “The employees getting pay cuts saw their bosses getting bonuses for staying,” recalls Jerry Grinstein, who was a director at the time. Bastian quit in disgust in early 2004, joining a lighting and controls manufacturer in Atlanta as CFO. Six months later, Grinstein—who had been named CEO in a boardroom revolt—met with Bastian at a Starbucks and lured him back as Delta’s CFO, offering him the challenge of saving Delta for half the salary he was making at the lighting company.

Delta filed for bankruptcy in 2005, a gambit Bastian advocated as its only route to survival. It was during its Chapter 11 period that Bastian became the prime developer and champion of the comeback plan that defines the airline’s strategy to this day. To sell the blueprint to employees, Bastian in 2006 headlined the first Velvets at a shuttered Macy’s in downtown Atlanta. His pitch: Delta would rebound as an upscale carrier that distinguished itself via superior reliability and customer service, commanding premium prices. He pledged to restore base pay to competitive levels and unveiled a profit-sharing formula that’s still in place today: If Delta thrived, employees would share richly in the upside. Although Delta was losing billions of dollars a year at the time, workers rallied behind Bastian’s vision. The workforce also found common cause in successfully fighting a 2006 hostile takeover bid from U.S. Airways, brandishing the slogan “Keep Delta My Delta!”

Bastian led the often-acrimonious, 18-month negotiations with creditors that enabled Delta’s emergence from bankruptcy in April 2007. According to associates, his stamina was extraordinary, and so were his demands. “I’ve never been driven harder in my life,” recalls Marshall Huebner, a Davis Polk law firm partner who worked closely with Bastian. “I had lash marks on my back. Then, when it’s over, he wrote me a two-page letter, in fountain pen, about how he couldn’t have done it without me.”

His next job was managing a process that often spells disaster: merging two airlines. In 2008, Delta acquired Northwest just after it emerged from bankruptcy, and for the next two years, Bastian smoothly combined fleets and workforces, orchestrating what’s generally regarded as the best major marriage in airline history. When Richard Anderson, who’d served as Northwest’s chief in more prosperous days, became Delta’s CEO in 2007, he promoted Bastian to president, and the two served together for the next 8½ years. Anderson was a hawk on operations, managing the fleet, upgrading airports, and improving in-house maintenance. Bastian was the dealmaker, building the industry’s largest portfolio of partnerships with foreign carriers. That web now includes investments in Virgin Atlantic, AeroMexico, GOL of Brazil, and China Eastern, and a joint venture with Korean Air—partnerships crucial to his strategy today.

Bastian was widely recognized at Delta as Anderson’s heir apparent, and the handoff of the CEO role, in May 2016, was seamless. But he became a nationally known figure thanks to an unanticipated conflict: a high-profile duel with the National Rifle Association. This March, following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Bastian got emails from Parkland students drawing his attention to the discounts Delta offered to NRA members on flights to its annual convention. Bastian had already been appalled when an NRA spokesperson declared, in response to criticism of the organization’s advocacy, that “Many in the legacy media love mass shootings” and that “Crying white mothers are ratings gold.” In reaction to that kind of rhetoric, Delta canceled the discount.

Even though only 13 members had ever used the discount, the NRA vociferously complained. If the airline didn’t reinstate the deal, the Georgia state senate threatened to block passage of a fuel tax exemption that would have saved Delta $40 million a year. Bastian refused, and the tax break was killed. But his stance generated a publicity coup for Delta. The CEO issued a widely reported memo to employees stating,“Our values are not for sale” and deftly defended the airline in a range of public appearances. Delta’s stance, Bastian tells Fortune, wasn’t designed to burnish the airline’s brand, but it brought precisely that benefit: “We won a lot of fans.”

One partner who lauded Bastian’s stance was Sir Richard Branson, founder and president of Virgin Atlantic. “I couldn’t agree with him more,” Branson says. “Business leaders can’t leave it up to the politicians.” When such weighty issues aren’t in play, the two leaders share a lighter rapport, especially at joint appearances—frequent events since 2013, when Delta bought a 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic. At a recent fundraiser in Atlanta, Branson produced a pair of scissors and cut off Bastian’s tie. (“He should wear an open shirt, like me,” says Branson.) Branson covets Bastian’s footwear as much as he detests his neckwear. When they appeared onstage recently at Delta headquarters, Branson kneeled down and removed Bastian’s $1,500 Berluti sneakers (a gift from Bastian’s girlfriend), then slipped them on. “I stole them, and he’s not getting them back,” said Branson in a recent interview. “I’m wearing them as we speak.”

***

目前,美国航空业的形势整体要比巴斯蒂安第一次拯救达美航空时好得多,但是没有一家航空公司的变化比达美航空更大。随着自由现金流的增加,原本只能靠老飞机和老航站楼打天下的达美航空终于开始重金购买新飞机。同时,达美航空每年都要投资数十亿美元,在枢纽机场建设和翻新航站楼等设施。2018年,达美航空的资本支出将达到50亿美元,比四年前多了一倍以上。接下来几年,光是它在西雅图、洛杉矶、纽约、盐湖城等地的机场项目就将耗资80亿美元以上。据ISS企业解决方案公司(ISS Corporate Solutions)估计,自2015年第三季度以来,达美航空部署的存量资本已增长12%,达到512亿美元。

投资是为了回报,但达美航空要想让这些投资产生强劲的回报,却并不是一件容易的事。投资回报可以用一个叫做“经济增加值”(EVA)的指标衡量,EVA是一种衡量“经济利润”的指标,即企业在资本成本之上赚取的利润。根据ISS公司的统计,从2015年9月30日至2016年9月30日,达美航空的EVA比6.5%的资本成本高出了5.8个百分点。不过在过去12个月内,达美航空的利润下跌到了0.3%。不过这依然是值得尊敬的,大概相当于高尔夫球的标准杆水平。ISS公司的常务董事马克·布罗克韦表示:“相比于同等风险的其他上市公司,达美航空的资本回报率是要稍好一些的。”但这种水平还不足以让投资者相信达美航空拥有“运营杠杆”——也就是将利润率提高到一定程度以使利润大幅增加的能力。

达美航空的困境是行业多年趋势的产物。从今年年初到现在,达美航空的营收增长达到了8%,分析师认为,归功于经济的稳健增长和商务票价的回升,达美航空今年的营收或将达到创纪录的440亿美元。然而在过去四年间,公司的销售额几乎没有任何实际增长。也就是说,自2014年以来,它的营收仅仅增长了10%。而在同一时间段,达美航空的劳动力成本出现激增,从81亿美元上升到110亿美元左右,涨幅达36%。因此,达美航空今年的税前利润约为50亿美元,显著低于2015年的59亿美元。

达美航空的营收增长何以停滞不前呢?最主要的原因是一连串的价格战严重损害了达美航空利润最高的市场——商务机票。雷蒙德詹姆斯公司的分析师萨凡提·赛斯指出:“2011年到2014年,由于燃油价格高企,导致航班座位的供给增速低于需求的增速,而低利润又使航空公司缺乏增加座位和航班的动力。”2015年,油价开始爆跌,捷蓝航空、西南航空、精灵航空、边疆航空等廉价航空公司开始携大量新航班抢占原本属于三大航的地盘。2015年至2016年,美国国内航空公司的客运能力开始以每年4.5%至5.0%的速度增长。

随着客运能力的增长,为了提高航班的上座率,各个廉价航空公司开始向部分在登机前几天内购票的旅客提供超低票价。这些买“尾票”的旅客也包括很多因为不是特定航空公司企业会员而选择自行订票的商务旅客。这些“不受控”的旅客约占达美航空旅客总量的15%和机票总量的35%。美国航空和联合大陆航空也不想失去这些旅客。所以从2015年年中开始,他们也推出了打折机票,与廉价航空公司打价格战。

这一时期,价格战在全美各地打响。比如捷蓝航空推出了针对长途航班的Mint头等舱体验计划,重点拓展纽约的约翰肯尼迪机场和波士顿机场——这两个机场也是达美航空的两个大本营。巴斯蒂安回忆道:“尾票票价可以说已经崩溃了。”据他估计,从2014年到2018年年初,整个航业的商务机票价格下跌了25%左右。

然而现在,航空业的趋势正在朝着另一个方向发展。航空燃油的价格从2016年年初的40美元每桶飙升到了今天的90美元每桶,使得廉价航空公司的单座客运成本的涨幅远远超过了传统三大航,各廉价航空公司只得纷纷提高票价。巴斯蒂安表示,现在商务机票的价格跟成本脱节的时代已经过去了,行业通行的作法是将票价与六个月前的燃油价格挂钩。目前,达美航空的商务票价已止跌回升了50%。巴斯蒂安还表示,由于燃油价格保持在90美元的高位,“各个廉价航空都在削减重复航线。”

价格战并不是巴斯蒂安面临的唯一挑战,公司薪酬支出的不断上涨也是一个棘手的问题。如前文所述,达美航空有一个非常慷慨的利润分享计划。每年情人节,达美航空会将税前利润的前25亿美元的10%分给员工,对于高于25亿美元的部分,则分20%给员工。目前达美航空的员工平均比联合航空和美国航空的员工多赚5%,差距主要就在这些奖金。

公司管理层本来也不打算发这么多奖金的。2015年,达美航空曾计划下一年度将5万余名空乘、机师等一线员工的基本工资提高18.5%,以换取员工同意降低利润分成。这些员工都不是工会成员,他们也同意公司的这一政策。但就在当年年底,由达美航空的飞行员组成的工会拒绝了这个计划。2017年,燃油价格的下降使达美航空的利润大幅上升,公司同意为所有员工加薪6%。今年,达美航空最终决定,与其维持两套不同的薪酬体系,不如对所有员工维持原有的10%和20%的利润分成政策。总之,在短短一年多的时间里,公司的基本工资上涨了25%左右,而所有员工依然享受着公司管理层本打算削减的利润分成方案。

巴斯蒂安承诺,达美航空的员工将享受业内最高的薪酬水平。不过他也表示,将来公司的加薪幅度应与美国经济的增长水平包括通胀水平(目前约为4.5%)相当,此外员工还将享受利润分成。

与此同时,巴斯蒂安还希望通过更新机队来增加收入,也就是要用体型更大、燃油经济性更好的飞机取代现有老旧的小飞机,不仅要更换长途航线的飞机,对短途的小型支线飞机也要更换。到2020年,达美航空预计将退役主要航线上30%的“主线”客机。目前,达美航空约有300架耗油量巨大的MD-88和MD-90客机,这两种客机分别可载客149名和158名,这批飞机平均已服役20年左右。为了取代这些飞机,达美航空已经订购了一批空客A321和A321neo客机及波音737-900客机,它们的载客量都在180名至197名之间。一旦新机全部到位,达美航空就能在相同数量的航班上多运送25%的旅客。更重要的是,这些新机的体型虽然更大,燃油消耗却比MD系统客机少了20%左右,而且它们也不需要更多的机组人员。这样一来,达美航空便能在固定成本下降或不变的情况下,运送比以前多得多的旅客。

The U.S. airline industry is in far better shape than it was when Bastian first started rallying his rank and file. But no airline has changed more than Delta. As its free cash flow swelled, an airline that once mainly flew old planes to aging terminals has invested heavily in new aircraft. It’s spending billions of dollars a year at its hub airports, building and refurbishing terminals and concourses. In 2018, Delta will lay out $5 billion in capital expenditures, more than double the number four years ago; its airport projects in Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, and Salt Lake City alone will cost $8 billion over the next several years. Since the third quarter of 2015, according to ISS Corporate Solutions, the total stock of capital Delta deploys has increased by 12% to $51.2 billion.

Delta needs to generate strong returns on those extra billions in fresh investments. But doing so is far from a sure thing. One yardstick for such performance is economic value added, or EVA, a metric that measures “economic profit,” the amount companies earn over and above their cost of capital. According to ISS, for the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2016, Delta exceeded its 6.5% cost of capital by 5.8 percentage points. But over the past 12 months, its margin has fallen to 0.3%. That’s still respectable, a bit like shooting par for a pro golfer. “Delta is delivering slightly better returns on capital than what investors would expect from holdings that are equally risky,” says Mark Brockway, managing director of ISS. But it’s not the kind of number that convinces investors that Delta has “operating leverage”—the capacity to lift margins enough to send its profits skyward.

Delta’s dilemma is the product of trends that were years in the making. So far in 2018, revenues are growing at a brisk 8%, and analysts expect the airline to bring in a record $44 billion, thanks to a strong economy and a rebound in business fares. But over the previous four years, sales barely budged, so all told, they’ve grown a total of only 10% since 2014. By contrast, labor costs exploded over that period, from $8.1 billion to around $11 billion, a rise of 36%. As a result, Delta is expected to post pretax profits this year of around $5 billion—¬notably lower than the $5.9 billion it reported in 2015.

Why did revenues go flat? The primary driver was a spate of fare wars that hammered Delta’s most lucrative market, premium business fares. “From 2011 to 2014, the supply of seats grew more slowly than demand because of high fuel prices, and low margins discouraged airlines from adding seats and flights,” explains Savanthi Syth, an analyst with Raymond James. But when oil prices collapsed in 2015, low-cost carriers, led by JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and Frontier, began invading the Big Three’s turf with a flood of new flights. Capacity, the total number of “seat miles” flown on domestic carriers, jumped between 4.5% and 5.0% annually in 2015 and 2016.

To fill the growing sea of seats, the budget airlines offered super-low fares to customers who booked their tickets within a few days of departure. These “walk-up” travelers include business folks who aren’t bound to specific airlines by corporate contracts and are free to choose among competing carriers. This “unmanaged” segment accounts for 15% of all Delta travelers and 35% of total fares. American and United, in particular, didn’t want to risk losing these customers. So starting in mid-2015, they matched the low-carriers’ walk-up fares with their own cut-rate deals.

The wave rippled across every business market. JetBlue, for example, expanded in New York’s JFK and in Boston, two big markets for Delta, offering its Mint premium class on long-haul routes. “Walk-up fares were crushed,” recalls Bastian. He estimates that the price of business tickets, across the entire industry, dropped as much as 25% between 2014 and the start of 2018.

Those trends are now moving in the other direction. A jump in jet-fuel prices—from as low as $40 a barrel in early 2016 to $90 today—has increased costs-per-seat at the budget carriers far more than for the Big Three, forcing their fares higher. Bastian says that business fares are no longer unhinged from costs and are tracking oil prices with around a six-month lag. So far, he says, Delta has recouped around 50% of the drop in business fares, and at $90, he adds, “the budget airlines are cutting back on the same routes.”

Still, competition on fares is far from Bastian’s only challenge: The airline’s ballooning compensation levels have posed an unruly problem of their own. Delta has an extremely generous profit-sharing plan. Each year, on Valentine’s Day, Delta hands its workers 10% of its first $2.5 billion in pretax profits, and 20% on any profits above that level. Those bonuses are the main reason its employees earn, on average, 5% more each year than their counterparts at United or American.

Management had intended to make the deal a bit less sweet. In 2015, Delta agreed to raise base pay the following year by 18.5% for its 50,000 flight attendants, mechanics, and other frontline workers, all of whom are nonunion, in exchange for the workforce accepting a smaller share of profits. Those workers liked the tradeoff. But later that year, Delta’s unionized pilots rejected the deal. Then in 2017, flush with profits from a drop in fuel prices, Delta granted all of its workers another 6% increase. And finally, this year, Delta decided that rather than keep two separate plans, it would restore the 10-and-20 formula for all workers. The bottom line: All told, base pay waxed around 25% in little over a year—and all workers still have the old profit-sharing plan that management had tried to cap.

Bastian pledges to keep Delta’s employees the best paid in the industry. But he says that looking forward, pay raises should pretty much match U.S. economic growth including inflation, today around 4.5%, plus profit sharing. (If this move proves unpopular, he’ll presumably hear about it in the selfie lines.)

Meanwhile, the CEO plans to reap more savings through a strategy called “up gauging.” That process involves replacing older, smaller planes with bigger, more fuel-efficient aircraft on longer routes as well as in its fleet of smaller, regional jets. Delta will have retired 30% of the “mainline” planes flown on its major routes by 2020. Today, it flies around 300 two-decades-old, fuel-¬guzzling MD-88s and MD-90s that carry 149 and 158 seats, respectively. To replace them, Delta has ordered fleets of the A321 and ¬A321neo from Airbus, and 737-900s from Boeing, which hold between 180 and 197 seats. Once that’s done, for a large portion of its fleet, Delta will be able to fly 25% more customers on the same number of flights. What’s more, despite being larger, the new aircraft consume around 20% less fuel than the MDs and don’t require larger crews. Delta will be able to put a lot more passengers on those planes at the same or lower fixed costs.

***

除此之外,达美航空的袖中还有一张盈利王牌,确切地说,这张王牌藏在几百万消费者的钱包里——它就是达美航空建立的一张庞大的市场合作网络。无论是机票价格战,还是燃油成本的起落,这些一般会影响航空公司财务业绩的外部因素都不会给这个合作网络造成影响。而这个合作网络正是巴斯蒂安担任达美航空的CFO和总裁期间谈下来的。

每年,消费者都会通过达美航空与美国运通联合发行的达美SkyMiles信用卡消费800亿美元。持卡人使用该卡或其他有里程奖励计划的美国运通信用卡消费后,就会获得达美航空的里程积分。以前,在航空公司与美国运通这种信用卡公司的合作中,一般信用卡公司会有更高的话语权,能用很便宜的价格从航空公司买到大量里程。但现在,达美航空的财力和品牌形象有了很大改善,所以反而是达美航空拥有了更高话语权。达美航空的财务总监保罗·雅各布森表示:“这是一次革命性的变化。正是因为客户对达美航空的忠诚,才为SkyMiles信用卡带来了忠实客户。”

今年,美国运通将为达美航空带来34亿美元的收入。这些收入主要来自两个渠道:一是里程的采购,二是“商户费”的分成。所谓“商户费”,是指每次消费者使用信用卡消费,美国运通会从零售商户那里抽成2.5%。美国运通主要通过循环信用利息和信用卡年费收入赚钱,而“商户费”则主要被达美航空拿走了。据斯迪富(Stifel)公司的分析师乔伊·德纳尔迪估计,达美航空在与美国运通的合作中获得了66%的利润。巴斯蒂安则表示,德纳尔迪估计的利润比例“太高了”,不过他也承认,实际的利润比例是“极为健康”的。不过不管达美航空实际分走的利润是多少,它的利润率都高于公司的核心航空业务,而且还在34亿美元的基础上以每年超过11%的速度增长。

然而,这部分利润也并非总是稳定的。旅行相关博客“View from the Wing”的博主加里·莱夫表示:“我认为这部分利润会下滑,有两个原因:一是无论是竞争因素还是监管因素都有可能压低这部分利润,二是航空信用卡面临着来自银行信用卡的激烈竞争。”有的银行信用卡的奖励相比航空信用卡还要更高。包括莱夫在内的一些分析师认为,最好的情况就是SkyMiles信用卡在一段时间内能继续为达美航空带来利润,同时巴斯蒂安和他的团队可以找到办法让核心的航空业务获得更高收入。

为了促进核心业务的增长,达美航空也将目光投向了海外市场。在很多国家,不断增长的中产阶级人口和蓬勃发展的商业环境,使得那里的需求增长得极为迅猛。而达美航空在这里是有可能占据绝对优势的。普信集团持有7亿美元的达美航空股份,该公司的投资经理安德鲁·戴维斯持指出:“达美航空对外国航空公司的投资,以及其与外国企业建立的合资公司的数量,要远远超过美国的其他航空公司。随着它继续在全球范围内扩张,达美航空肯定能实现它需要的收入增长。”

美国和欧洲之间的航线是达美航空增长最快的市场。今年以来,这一块业务的收入增长了12%,年化收益预计将达到62亿美元。其中增长最快的是美国至英国的商务旅客。直到2010年前后,达美航空在开辟美欧航线上还是比较滞后的。但通过2013年与维珍大西洋航空的合作,达美航空一举成为美欧航线上举足轻重的存在,特别是在伦敦的希思罗机场。JoeSentMe.com的运营者乔伊·布兰卡泰利表示:“纽约至伦敦航班的开通,使纽约和伦敦的大银行都开始注意到达美航空。”

如今,达美-维珍联盟是纽约至伦敦航线上仅次于美国航空和英国航空的合资公司的第二大势力,平均每天要飞7到8个航班。最近几年,海外的美资银行利润颇丰,咨询顾问和交易操盘手经常要往返于纽约和伦敦,指导各路企业妥善应对英国脱欧。另外,强势美元也使欧洲成了美国人休闲旅游的好去处。对于英国人来说,达美—维珍联盟也给他们提供了几个可以直飞的度假地,比如奥兰多和拉斯维加斯等。

In the quest for more revenue, Delta has a very profitable ace up its sleeve—or, more accurately, in millions of people’s wallets. It’s a major marketing partnership that’s immune to the cycles in fares and fuel costs that roil financial results for airlines in general, and it’s one that Bastian can take credit for, having negotiated it back when he was CFO and president.

Each year, consumers spend $80 billion on purchases through cobranded American Express–Delta SkyMiles credit cards. AmEx buys miles from Delta that Delta exchanges as rewards for spending on that card, as well as through rewards programs on other AmEx cards. In the past, AmEx and other credit card companies had all the leverage in these relationships, buying big chunks of miles on the cheap when carriers were desperate for cash. But today, Delta’s fortunes, and its brand, have greatly improved, and it’s the airline that has the leverage. “It’s a revolutionary change, a stabilizing force,” says Delta CFO Paul Jacobson. “It’s loyalty to Delta that brings loyalty to the SkyMiles card.”

The result: This year, AmEx will send Delta $3.4 billion in revenues from two sources. The first is the purchase of miles. The second is a large chunk of the “merchant fee,” the approximately 2.5% that AmEx collects from retailers of the value of each purchase customers charge to the card. AmEx makes its money on revolving credit interest and annual fees—but Delta now gets most of the merchant fee. Joe DeNardi, an analyst for Stifel, estimates that Delta is reaping 66% margins from the AmEx deal. Bastian says that estimate is “much too high” but acknowledges that margins are “extremely healthy.” Whatever the actual margins, they’re higher than on core airline operations and growing at over 11% a year on that $3.4 billion base.

Nonetheless, that big flow of profits is vulnerable. “I argue that the margins will fall for two reasons,” says Gary Leff, who writes the traveler-oriented blog View from the Wing. “The interchange will be driven down, either by competition or regulation. And airline cards are getting tremendous competition from bank cards” with comparably high rewards. In a best-case scenario, Leff and others predict, the SkyMiles deal will help support Delta’s bottom line for a while as Bastian and his team figure out how to sustain higher revenues in the core airline franchise.

To make that growth happen, Delta is looking overseas—where growing middle-class populations and booming business climates are generating the kind of growth in demand that’s a thing of the past in the States. And here, Delta may have a decisive edge. “Delta’s developed far more big investments in foreign carriers and formed more overseas joint ventures than any other U.S. airline,” says Andrew Davis, a portfolio manager for T. Rowe Price whose funds hold $700 million in Delta shares. “As its global footprint expands, Delta can definitely generate the revenue growth it needs.”

Traffic between the U.S. and Europe is Delta’s fastest-growing franchise, posting a 12% jump in revenues so far this year to an annualized $6.2 billion—led by a 15% increase in the U.S.-to-U.K. segment. Earlier this decade, Delta was a laggard on what’s by far the premier route for business travelers between the U.S. and Europe: New York City to London’s Heathrow Airport. But the 2013 launch of Delta’s partnership with Virgin Atlantic, in a single stroke, made it a major force in that market and especially to Heathrow. “What’s known as NYLON put Delta on the map with the big banks in New York and London,” says Joe Brancatelli, who runs the website JoeSentMe.com for business airline travelers.

Today, the Delta-Virgin alliance is second only to the American–British Airways joint venture on the NYLON route, offering seven or eight flights a day. Profits are lively for global U.S. banks, and consultants and dealmakers are shuttling back and forth to London to advise on how best to handle Brexit. The strong dollar is making Europe in general a bargain for U.S. leisure travelers, and on the U.K. side, Delta-Virgin offers frequent flights to several of the Brits’ favorite vacation haunts, among them Orlando and Las Vegas.

在2018年6月的一次活动上,维珍大西洋航空公司的总裁理查德·布兰森爵士(左)与巴斯蒂安开玩笑。达美航空于2013年收购了维珍航空49%的股份,此次交易使达美航空在利润丰厚的纽约至伦敦航线上占据了一席之地。图片来源:Courtesy of Delta

达美航空还与法荷航空(Air France–KLM)展开合作,以服务更多欧洲城市。这项合作使达美航空开辟了至巴黎和阿姆斯特丹等城市的航线,同时它又可以通过这些枢纽机场连接欧洲的其他城市。这些合作并不属于反垄断法的监管范畴,也就是说,达美航空和它的合作伙伴可以通过合作,议定票价和航班行程。

尽管达美航空的收入增长迅速,但它仍然有提高的空间。对于一名美国旅客来说,达美航空、法航和维珍航空类似于一个联盟。假如你是纽约的一家银行,那么你在达美航空就可以买到维珍航空或法荷航空的所有越洋航班,同时也可以享受它们在欧洲的庞大网络。然而在欧洲方面,达美与法航以及达美与维珍的合作,则被视为两个相互独立的合作。因此对于一家欧洲企业来说,它是无法享受到这种三大航空公司无缝对接的商旅服务的,除非这家企业与两家合资公司都签订了协议。当然由于嫌麻烦,很多公司是不愿意这样做的。

达美航空的解决方案是:与这两家公司进行合并。目前,这两家合资公司已经分别向美国和欧盟申请了合并,巴斯蒂安相信,合并申请很快就会获批。等到获得主管部门批准后,他们就能提供更大范围的订票服务,利润也就会源源不断地涌入了。旅游领袖集团(Travel Leaders Group)的航空关系高级副总裁彼得·弗里塔斯表示:“合并后的联盟将为欧洲企业提供全面的全球商旅套餐。”

Delta also has a partnership with Air France–KLM to serve European cities. That’s lucrative, too, giving Delta a share of income on routes to cities such as Paris and Amsterdam, and connections to other cities within Europe from those hubs. All of these relationships are “antitrust-immune,” which means that Delta and its partners can cooperate to set fares and schedules.

Even though revenue has been growing rapidly, Delta has room for improvement. For a traveler from the U.S., Delta, Air France, and Virgin Atlantic can act as a single partnership. It can offer a New York bank, for example, a package deal that includes all those Virgin flights to Heathrow, as well as Air France–KLM’s transatlantic service and its vast network throughout Europe. But on the European side, the Delta–Air France and Delta-Virgin partnerships are considered independent of each other. That means European corporations can’t get comparably seamless business-travel arrangements for their employees unless they sign separate deals with the two joint ventures, something many aren’t willing to do.

Delta’s solution: Merge them. The two joint ventures have applied for permission to merge from the U.S. and EU, and Bastian is confident approval will arrive shortly. When they get a yes, they’ll be able to offer a wider array of bookings, and profits will follow. “Combining the two JVs would be a big deal,” says Peter Vlitas, SVP of airline relations at Travel Leaders Group, a firm that helps corporations negotiate travel contracts. “The combined alliances would offer full global corporate travel packages to companies based in Europe.”

***

同时,巴斯蒂安还希望扭转达美航空在亚太地区节节败退的局面。为此,他也做出了自己担任CEO以来最大胆的赌注。

2012年至2017年,达美航空在亚洲的收入下降了35%,从36亿美元跌至23亿美元。直到最近,达美航空在亚洲都只有东京成田机场这一个枢纽,并且用自己的飞机从这里往返亚洲各地。2013年,日本政府将离东京市区更近的羽田机场从一个国内机场改造成了国际机场。结果达美航空的许多以东京为目的地(而非中转机场)的旅客选择了改乘其他航空公司的航班,这样一来,达美航空在成田机场的业务在经济上愈发难以为继。而美国航空和联合航空的损失则相对较小,因为他们与日本的几家航空公司有合作关系,可以帮助他们在成田机场和羽田机场都保持运营。而达美航空却没有日本的合作伙伴。(巴斯蒂安虽然向日航抛出了橄榄枝,但双方并没谈出什么成果。)

不过去年,达美航空与大韩航空签订了一项不受反垄断审查的合资协议,从此,达美航空将可以在首尔附近的仁川国际机场提供服务。达美航空总裁格伦·豪恩斯坦将仁川机场称为“全球机场界的泰姬陵”。仁川国际机场于2001年开放,是全球最新最大的机场之一。达美航空可由成田机场飞往25个城市。在仁川机场,达美航空占据了于今年1月平昌冬奥会期间亮相的2号航站楼的45个登机口。从这里,它与大韩航空的飞机可以飞往全球80个目的地(其中有40个在中国)。旅行博客“View from the Wing”的博主莱夫指出:“很多航空公司都可以直飞上海或首尔等大城市。但现在达美航空改变了游戏规则,它可以直达亚洲的几十个二线城市,不管是河内还是哈尔滨。”

从纽约的约翰肯尼迪机场直飞仁川,单程需要飞7000英里左右。不过相比坐7000英里的飞机,肯定还是跑26.2英里的马拉松更累。但在今年11月,作为跑步爱好者的巴斯蒂安就挑战了一次纽约马拉松赛。他参赛是为了支持亚特兰大的瑞力基金会(Rally Foundation),该基金会是从事儿童癌症研究的一个慈善组织。不过这次他跑得并不轻松,由于半月板撕裂,他在10月底一直是一瘸一拐地走路。比赛当天,巴斯蒂安虽然跑完了全程,但总共却花了6个多小时。他说:“跑到第15英里的时候,我的小腿都打结了,这让最后10英里成了一场真正的战斗。”这次经历可能也有些预言的意味:在达美航空取得下一个成功前,他总是要经历一些痛苦的。(财富中文网)

本文的另一版本载于2018年12月1日刊的《财富》杂志。

译者:朴成奎

In the meantime, Bastian aims to reverse a long retreat for Delta in the Pacific—and he’s doing so with one of his most audacious gambits as CEO.

Between 2012 and 2017, Delta’s revenues from Asia fell 35%, from $3.6 billion to $2.3 billion. Until recently, Delta served Asia mainly through a hub at Narita International Airport in Tokyo, connecting traffic from there throughout Asia on its own planes. But in 2013, the Japanese government transformed Haneda, an airport much closer to Tokyo, from a domestic to an international hub. The result was that many of Delta’s “destination” travelers to Tokyo—passengers who planned to end their trips there rather than pass through—chose other airlines, making its Narita service less financially viable. American and United suffered less, since they have partnerships with Japanese airlines to help them operate in both Narita and Haneda. But Delta didn’t have a Japanese partner. (Bastian courted JAL, without results.)

Last year, however, Delta signed a new, antitrust-immune joint venture with Korean Air for service to giant Incheon International, near Seoul. That hub, which Delta president Glen Hauenstein calls “the Taj Mahal of world airports,” opened in 2001 and is one of the world’s newest and biggest facilities. From Narita, Delta flew to 25 cities. From Incheon, it will operate 45 gates at ultramodern Terminal 2, which made its debut in January 2018 in time for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. From there it will connect on Korean Air planes to 80 destinations, including 40 in China. “Lots of airlines fly nonstop to major cities like Shanghai or Seoul,” says Leff, of View from the Wing. “The game changer is that Delta can now reach dozens upon dozens of secondary cities throughout Asia, whether it’s Hanoi or Harbin.”

A nonstop flight from JFK to Incheon stretches some 7,000 miles. This fall, Bastian was contemplating a shorter if no less daunting distance: 26.2 miles. Bastian, a regular jogger, had pledged to run in the New York Marathon in early November to support Atlanta’s Rally Foundation, a charity for childhood cancer research. His biggest obstacle: a torn meniscus that had him hobbling in late October. Come race day, Bastian went the distance, albeit in a time of more than six hours. “On mile 15, my calves knotted,” he says. It “turned the last 10 miles into a true battle.” The experience may prove to be prophetic: There’s likely to be some pain for Bastian before Delta’s next big gain.

A version of this article appears in the December 1, 2018 issue of Fortune.

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