” OH! WHAT A TANGLED WEB WE WEAVE WHEN WE FIRST PRACTICE TO DECEIVE” was a quote by Sir Walter Scott , and it’s very fitting for this new series Im doing.
In the first of a multi-part series , we will talk about Delta Airlines, and how they not only own stakes in many other airlines, many of those airlines also own stakes in the one another, and vice versa. If this sounds confusing, well, frankly IT IS, and it’s probably meant to be that way for various reasons.
Before I dig into it, I have to say that Delta is my favorite airline, in which I am a Diamond medallion member. I am writing about this to NOT pick on anyone, but to explain something I feel people should know about. I feel information is important!
NOW, let’s get started.
A Little Background
It’s pretty much common knowledge in the travel blogger world , or even the frequent traveler world, that Delta also has minor stakes in other airlines. When I started to look into this, the web kept getting larger and larger, and it seemed like things were interconnected in ways that I never imagined. Turns out , many of the airlines that Delta own a part of, also own parts of one another, and upon looking further, Delta actually owns larger portions, and has much more control over these airlines , by proxy.
I researched each of these airlines, their boards, ownership, history, etc , for this story. I hope you enjoy reading it, as much as I did working on it!
Im going to start by talking about who owns Delta, and a little background on the company. Turns out, the largest single shareholder of Delta stock is Berkshire Hathaway , which is ran by Warren Buffett, the 3rd richest person in the world. Buffett holds an apx. 11% share in Delta ,which is enormous to say the least. By pointing this out, it actually starts the web, because Buffett owns 11% of Delta, but Delta owns percentages of many other airlines that own shares in many airlines which.. well, you get the picture, Warren Buffett yields TREMENDOUS power in the airlines industry.Its noteworthy to point out, in other parts of this series, you will see Warren Buffett’s name come up even more, as he owns stakes in MANY US airlines.
Delta’s CEO is Ed Bastian. Mr. Bastian sits on the board of Delta, Aeromexico, and Virgin Atlantic. Bastian has made headlines over the last few years, complaining about ,amongst other things, that the Middle East carriers, Qatar, Etihad, and Emirates , are government funded, and unfair to competition. I will point out just how hypocritical this is.
Over the last several years, Delta has slowly bought up shares of of least seven foreign airlines directly , and many more , indirectly! Delta directly owns stakes in KLM, AirFrance (KLM /AirFrance Group), Aeromexico, Virgin Atlantic, China Eastern, Korean Airlines, and , GOL. Many of these airlines have subsidiaries, and own shares in one another, as well as other airlines, thus ,the WEB gets larger.
As I previously stated, Delta “directly” owns shares on at least 7 airlines, KLM / AirFrance 9%,Virgin Atlantic 50%, AeroMexico 50%, GOL 10%, Korean Air 5% , & China Eastern 4%. By proxy, Delta also owns shares in subsidiaries of the airlines, and even own larger stakes because of this, and wield more voting power on the boards because some of the airlines also own shares in the other, as you can see in both graphics.
I will start with KLM / AirFrance, not because Delta owns the largest stake, they don’t, but because its probably the most complex of the lot!
Delta owns an apx. 9% stake in the KLM / AirFrance group, BUT, China Eastern also owns a 9% stake in KLM / AirFrance, and I say this because Delta owns a 4% stake in China Eastern.
The connections continue with KLM/AirFrance owning a 31% stake in Virgin Atlantic, making Delta and KLM / AirFrance owning more than 81% of that company together.
KLM / AirFrance also owns a 2% stake in GOL, and Delta Holds 10%.
KLM / AirFrance has many subsidiaries , and also owns shares in other companies, like an 8% stake in Kenya Airways.
Virgin Atlantic is probably the airline that Delta has the most control over besides their own. Delta owns 50%, and KLM/ AirFrance owns 31% (Delta Owns AT LEAST 9% of KLM /AF) and Ed Bastian, the CEO of Delta, sits on the board of Virgin, and Delta has people on the board of KLM /AirFrance, so its pretty much a given that DELTA controls Virgin Atlantic because of this “complex” web.
Delta recently upped their stake in Aeromexico, making them the largest shareholder in the company. Ed Bastian, Delta’s CEO sits on the board of Aeromexico, and the two companies have extensive joint venture agreements. Aeromexico seems to be the 2nd in line of control that Delta Holds.
Gol is one of Brazils top airlines. Delta has slowly upped their ownership to at least 10% in there last few years. Like previously stated, KLM / AirFrance also holds a 2% stake, but Delta holds a 9% stake in KLM / AirFrance. GOL and Delta also have joint venture agreements, and as a side note, a few months ago I was able to use their lounge in Rio, which, without a doubt, the best food in any lounge, bar-non (with exception of Middle East 3 (ME3)).
Delta owns a 4% stake in a Chinese airline, China Eastern. Its notable that China Eastern holds a 9% stake in KLM / AirFrance, as Delta also does, and KLM / AirFrance owns shares in Virgin Atlantic, and Gol… See the web I spoke of!! Also, China Eastern is 60% owned by the Chinese Government, making Delta and the Chinese Government, partners.
The most recent of Delta’s shopping spree is a 5% stake in Korea’s flagship carrier, Korean Air. It’s notable that like with China Eastern, Delta is also in bed with the Korean Government, who own about a 12% stake in Korean Air.
Government Entanglement & Hypocrisy
I will say this again, I LOVE DELTA as an airline, & company, but don’t always agree with their leadership, kind of like I LOVE my county, the USA, but don’t always agree with the leadership. With that out of the way, let’s talk about hypocrisy! As mentioned before, Delta’s CEO , Ed Bastian, has made a big to-do about the ME3 , (Middle East Three, AKA, Etihad, Emirates, Qatar) being owned by their governments, and how this is unfair to American carriers. I spoke about this above, but here is a graphic pointing out government ownership of Delta associated airlines.
Does the saying “Pot calling the kettle black” ring a bell? Delta is in bed with several governments in many different ways, and are owners of airlines that are also owned by foreign governments, but I guess that’s ok since they are all NON Middle East???… Food for thought!
Just a side note about Delta’s leadership hypocrisy; Delta buys far more European made planes (Airbus) than American made (Boeing), yet they speak about protecting American jobs… really?
It’s hard to say if Delta has intentionally spun this web to be so hard to follow, or if it just turned out this way, but nonetheless, it is a big messy web! I know certain governments have laws about foreign ownership in airlines, and I am sure this is a piece-meal way around these restrictions, but like I said, I did not go down that path of investigation, although someone should.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying any of this is wrong, or right for that matter, I am just pointing out the facts. I just find some things ironic, and fishy, but I am not an attorney or a forensic accountant, so its not for me to say one way to another.
Delta, in general, is the best airline in the world, overall. YES some airlines are more glamorous, and some are this and that, but OVERALL, in TOTALITY, Delta is TOP! Ed Bastian is a good CEO overall, and does good for Delta’s shareholders, but is also a little hypocritical, and a little ” Do as I Say, Not as I Do” ish!!
Thanks for reading, and PLEASE , TRAVEL MORE!
PS. there are many more parts to this series, so stay tuned! Any Particular Airline, or Travel Related company you want me to research and write about?, just let me know!