Delta’s 95-Years and counting

C.E. Woolman founded our company on a set of guiding principles emphasizing outstanding service. Service excellence was baked into our DNA from the beginning.
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With humble beginnings as a crop dusting operation in 1929, no one could have imagined the business, service, and corporate culture achievements Delta would build during the next nine and a half decades.
On a June morning in 1929, Delta took its inaugural flight. A lanky former stunt pilot named Johnny Howe guided a single-engine Delta Air Service plane skyward from a Dallas airfield, heading east. Five hours and 427 miles later – including stops in Shreveport and Monroe, LA – Howe and his passenger, Delta employee John S. Fox, arrived at their destination, Jackson, MS.

From an initial four stations and a fleet of just three airplanes, by 2009, Delta had become the first US airline to serve 6 continents. “The Airline of the South” evolved into a global powerhouse serving 319 destinations in 55 countries. Delta’s growth trajectory has been remarkable — from 60 employees in rural Louisiana to more than 80,000 employees worldwide — driven by and dedicated to the values of unmatched customer service and safety. Every day, 80,000-plus Delta people exemplify our 95-year commitment to excellence.

The Legacy of C.E. Woolman

Delta’s beloved founder and first chief executive Collett E. “C.E.” Woolman, established Delta on a set of guiding principles designed to serve as a roadmap for the company’s future success. Woolman established a passionate commitment to the idea that when Delta leaders take care of Delta employees, our people will take care of the customer. This concept set the stage for the customer-focused ethos that drives our success through to today.

In 1929, Woolman’s dream of expanding Delta beyond agriculture led to the purchase of three five-passenger, 90 mile-per-hour Travel Air monoplanes, and on June 17, 1929, Delta operated its first passenger flight from Dallas to Jackson, MS, with stops at Shreveport, LA, and Monroe, LA. Passenger service took hold throughout the country in the 1930s and 1940s and in 1945, Woolman was named Delta Air Lines president and general manager.

At that time Delta moved from rural Monroe to find a forever-home in newly up-and-coming Atlanta.By 1965, Woolman was named CEO. He died on Sept. 11, 1966. A private man beloved by employees, he left behind a considerable legacy. His values still resonate with Delta people today through the Rules of the Road and The Way We Fly.