Delta: ‘That’s the model, take care of our people first.’

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian (left) and Operation HOPE founder and CEO John Hope Bryant talked about how the state’s largest employer has succeeded in keeping employee numbers up, particularly during the pandemic. Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice

Operation HOPE founder and CEO John Hope Bryant appeared on the main stage of the grand ballroom inside the Hyatt Regency Atlanta by way of a leap. He was excited to have the conversation that was scheduled to take place on day two of the The HOPE Global Forum, which returned to downtown Atlanta Sunday, Dec. 10.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian was the guest for a discussion titled, “Taking Flight: How investing in people and culture are paying dividends”. In 2022 Delta employed over 95,000 employees around the country, according to the company’s website and data provided by data website macrotrends.com. That was an increase of nearly 15% year-to-year. Bastian mentioned that there are now 100,000 global employees of the air line and talked about the many ways the company continues to keep employees.

“One of the things at Delta that we hold dear is our people,” Bastian said. “That’s the model: take care of your people first.”

Bastian said that the 100,000 employs under his care as CEO are a main focus and part of taking care of people as a major company and Georgia’s largest employer is making sure their financial situations are good.

Hosted by Operation HOPE, an Atlanta-based financial education and empowerment organization, the three-day event was themed “Making the Case for Optimism” and featured industry leaders in business, faith, real estate, healthcare, transportation, logistics, sports, finance and journalism/media. Delta’s Emergency Savings Program was launched in January 2023 with the express purpose of educating employees about how to save money, and providing financial literacy.

Delta partnered with Operation HOPE and Fidelity Investments on the program.

“Businesses have the resources to make a difference and businesses need to step up,” Bastian said. “We can’t take care of the whole country, but we can take care of Delta employees.”

Bastian revealed that delta employees have spent 3.5 million hours taking part in the financial literacy course work provided by the Emergency Savings Program.

Hearing those numbers, Bryant said, “I’m proud to say it features Operation HOPE.” He shared a story of how a Delta employee who he chose to not name, said he and his wife no longer fight over money. “I’m trying not to get too emotional right now,” Bryant said during the story. “We need heroes and she-roes in business. You can do well and do good at the same time.”

Bastian followed by saying that it’s really about doing good by people while simultaneously doing billion dollars of business all over the world. “So our opportunity to do the right thing is also the strategic thing,” said Bastian.

Delta Air Lines Vice President, Total Rewards Kelley Elliott joined Bryant on stage after Bastian left, and reiterated the point that 50% of Americans do not have immediate access to $1,000 in case of a financial emergency. Elliott said access to financial literacy for its employees remains among the company’s goals going forward.

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