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Sat 6 Feb 2016 09:52 AM

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Architect of US clash with Gulf carriers set to retire

Delta Airlines CEO Richard Anderson to retire in May this year, US carrier says

Architect of US clash with Gulf carriers set to retire
Delta Airlines CEO Richard Anderson. (Getty Images)

The CEO of US carrier Delta Air Lines is set to step down later this year, the airline has announced.

Richard Anderson, the controversial chief of Delta, will retire as CEO on May 2 and become the airline’s executive chairman.

The Atlanta-based carrier said in a news release that its President Ed Bastian would replace Anderson at CEO, with Glen Hauenstein, executive vice president of network planning and revenue management, taking over as president.

Anderson, who assumed Delta's top job in 2007, led the company through a merger with Northwest Airlines in 2008 and turned Delta into the number one airline globally by market value.

Delta also surprised peers by purchasing a refinery in 2012, an audacious first for the airline industry, to manage its jet fuel costs. After months of losses, the refinery has since turned to profit and posted gains of more than $300 million in 2015.

Anderson’s departure will remove one of the leaders and most vocal in the aviation industry in the campaign to restrict the rights of Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways in their expansion into the US market.

Delta, along with American Airlines and United Airlines, launched a campaign under the umbrella of Partnership for Open and Fair Skies, have claimed that the Gulf airline have received $40bn in hidden subsidies, which they said gives them an unfair advantage over the US carriers.

All three airlines have strongly denied the allegations, and have pointed to the financial aid given to US airlines following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Anderson will probably be best remembered in the region for comments is made a year ago in a TV interview on US television when he blamed 9/11 terrorists “from the Arabian Peninsula” for his company’s bankruptcy bailout in 2005.

Speaking on CNN in February last year, Anderson inferred the Gulf states were responsible for those bankruptcies.

“It’s a great irony to have the UAE from the Arabian Peninsula talk about that given the fact that our industry was really shocked by the terrorism of 9/11, which came from terrorists from the Arabian Peninsula, which caused us to go through a massive restructuring,” he said.

Following much criticism, Delta attempted to clarify the comment in a statement issued shortly after the interview. “He didn't mean to suggest the Gulf carriers or their governments are linked to the 9/11 terrorists," the statement said. “We apologise if anyone was offended.”

Emirates in its reply rejected the apology and questioned whether the CEO should remain in his job.

“We believe that the statements made this week by Mr Anderson were deliberately crafted and delivered for specific effect," Emirates said. “This brings into question his credibility as a CEO of a US public listed company, as well as the integrity of the submission which his airline has submitted to the US authorities.”

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