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Delta’s Ed Bastian Wins 2023 CEO of the Year Award

Bastian was praised by fellow CEOs for his handling of Delta's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic

by Fergus Cole

May 4, 2023

Ed Bastian has been named by his peer CEOs as the 2023 Chief Executive of the Year / Photo: Courtesy of Delta News Hub

The CEO of Delta Air Lines, Ed Bastian, has been named the 2023 Chief Executive of the Year by Chief Executive magazine.

The magazine’s annual Chief Executive of the Year awards have been running for 36 years, honoring company bosses from a wide range of industries who have displayed excellent leadership skills. Previous winners include Bill Gates, former Marriott boss Arne Sorenson, and Southwest Airlines co-founder Herb Kelleher.

The winner is chosen by a Selection Committee of distinguished CEOs from a range of industries, including past award winners. The 2023 Selection Committee included the last three CEO of the Year winners—Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, former Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, and Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan—among others. Ted Billies, Ph.D., chief talent officer and managing director of management consulting firm AlixPartners, served as a special adviser to this year’s committee.

Photo: Ed Bastian, CEO Delta Air Lines. Courtesy of ©2023 Rank Studios

Ed Bastian has served Delta in leadership roles for the past 25 years, becoming CEO of the Atlanta-based airline in 2016. During his time at the company, he has overseen its 90,000 employees worldwide and guided them through Delta’s most troubling periods, including the aftermath of 9/11, a bankruptcy filing in 2005, and, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m humbled by this incredible recognition and graciously accept on behalf of Delta’s global team of 90,000 worldwide,” said Bastian. “The resilience and strength they demonstrated through the most challenging time in our company’s history is nothing short of remarkable. Our people continue to set Delta apart, and it’s the greatest honor of my life to serve them.”

Bastian was praised by fellow Chief Executives for handling the recent crisis and his role in steering Delta away from the unprecedented challenges it has faced over the last three years. Since the pandemic, the airline has swiftly returned to profitability, partly thanks to the company’s continued investment in technology, aircraft, and airport facilities. Bastian was also praised for his commitment to innovation and providing excellent customer experience, such as the recent announcement of free onboard Wi-Fi for all Delta passengers.

Photo: Courtesy of Delta Air Lines

Since Bastian became Chief Executive of Delta in 2016, the carrier has received numerous recognitions, including being named the Wall Street Journal’s top U.S. airline, the best airline on Fortune’s World’s Most Admired Companies list, and one of Time’s Most Influential Companies.

“Ed Bastian is a true exemplar of what it means to be a visionary, resilient, purpose-driven leader,” said Frazier.

“Nearly all companies were required to make adjustments during the COVID-19 pandemic. Understanding that Delta Air Lines and its people needed to play a pivotal role at the very forefront of this global crisis, Ed confidently guided his organization through a period of unprecedented upheaval and uncertainty to deliver essential services for the benefit of us all.”

Added Moynihan: “Ed leads one of the world’s great companies with an impressive combination of attention to the finest details, a global vision, and strategic savvy. And Ed will tell you that Delta’s success, more than anything, comes from how his leadership team looks after their teammates throughout the company.”