Skift Take

Detroit Metropolitan is a nice airport but Richard Anderson should get out more if he truly thinks it is the best airport in the world. Perhaps he got carried away in trying to please the members of the Detroit Economic Club.

As he took his Open Skies rewind campaign to Detroit, Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson may have let sentimentality get the best of him as he declared Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport “the best” in the world.

Anderson has a history in Detroit and at the airport, including spending three to four nights a week there in the mid-1990s at what is now the Courtyard Detroit Metro Airport Romulus hotel as a Northwest Airlines executive overseeing the construction of McNamara Terminal. Anderson became Delta CEO in 2007 and the airline acquire Northwest a year later.

“First of all, I’m biased,” Anderson told the Detroit Economic Club June 23, referring to his views about Detroit Metropolitan Airport. “I will say the facility is the best airport facility in the world.”

“And our own J.D. Powers typically agrees with that,” Anderson added.

The trouble with the J.D. Powers reference, though, is that it released its latest North America Airport Satisfaction Study more than five years ago, in February 2010. It ranked Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport at the time as first among large airports in North America.

The airport generally gets positive user reviews on apps such as GateGuru with travelers pointing to friendly staff, short security lines and the McNamara Tunnel light show.

However, Skytrax, which isn’t necessarily the final word in airport rankings, released its 2015 assessment of the world’s top 100 airports and placed Detroit Metropolitan Airport way down the list at 96th with Singapore Changi, Incheon International Airport and Munich Airport retaining the three highest spots that they occupied the previous year.

Detroit Metropolitan Airport is important to Anderson and Delta. Anderson recalled that 10 days earlier he was there to welcome joint venture partner Virgin Atlantic’s first nonstop flight from Heathrow to Detroit.

Delta will operate 130,000 departures from Detroit in 2015, carrying 12 million passengers, Anderson said.

“We’ve really turned this into Delta’s gateway to Asia east of the Mississippi,” he said. Delta operates five daily flights to Asia from DTW.

If you weren’t certain about Anderson’s feelings about DTW, he added: “It’s a real gem in our system.”

With some 7,000 Delta employees in Michigan, Anderson said Delta is “the hometown airline.”

Turning to the Gulf carriers, Anderson repeated his call for the U.S.government to open consultations with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar about what he sees as their flouting of Open Skies agreements. Delta, American and United argue that the Gulf carriers are competing unfairly because the thrive based on monumental governmental subsidies, a charge the trio of Gulf airlines deny.

“They really aren’t airlines,” Anderson said, referring to Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways. “They are governments.”

Anderson said the Gulf carriers have about 500 widebody aircraft on order from Boeing and Airbus. He said that is way out of proportion when you consider that airlines in China, the world’s second largest economy, have about 60 widebody aircraft on order.

In line with the positions of United and American, the Delta CEO called on the U.S. government to take “reasonable and measured steps to roughly level the playing field.”

Here’s a video of Anderson’s speech:

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream


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Tags: delta air lines, detroit, open skies

Photo credit: The light show in the tunnel at McNamara Terminal in Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. Pat Knight /

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