Last year we learned that Delta’s former CEO, Richard Anderson, would step down as of May 2016. Then in June of this year it was announced that he would become the President & CEO of Amtrak. He left a great legacy at the airline, and I certainly have a lot of respect for the guy.
At the same time, there’s great irony to me in the CEO of Delta, which fought so hard against subsidies of all kinds, to turn around and become the CEO of Amtrak, which relies on subsidies to operate. I guess that only speaks to the degree to which he’ll go to fight for what’s in the best interest of the companies he works for.
I haven’t heard much about Anderson lately, though the StarTribune has a story quoting Anderson that can’t help but make me laugh.
This week Amtrak launched a new ad campaign highlighting how taking Amtrak is better than flying, and it’s actually a really solid ad campaign. You can check out the ad campaign’s dedicated website at breakthetravelquo.com. For example, here are a few of the ads:
While the ads themselves are well done, my favorite part of all this is what Richard Anderson said about the campaign, drawing a comparison between airlines and Amtrak:
“The coach on Amtrak is better than the first-class product on any domestic airplane,” Anderson said Thursday in an interview. The new campaign, though it predated his arrival, is “spot-on in terms of the contrast” with U.S. carriers, he said.
Of course in his new role, Anderson is a huge fan of subsidies, especially for something as “essential” as trains. He also thinks that it’s much more complicated to run a rail company than to run an airline:
During his nine years at Delta, he became famous for the ferocity with which he battled subsidies he believed competitors enjoyed, from sources including the Export-Import Bank and a trio of Middle Eastern governments that U.S. airlines accuse of giving unfair aid to their carriers. Under Anderson, Delta led an effort to cut off federal support for the Ex-Im Bank, which was a key element in many sales of Boeing jets abroad.
Amtrak, meanwhile, provides an “essential service” for many Americans, Anderson said, and enjoys broad congressional support. Earlier this month, the House rejected a proposal by Rep. Mo Brooks, an Alabama Republican, to eliminate federal funding for Amtrak; a Senate committee has also set aside a budget request by the Trump administration to eliminate money for Amtrak’s long-distance routes.
Running a passenger rail company “is a lot more complicated than an airline,” Anderson said, because the railroad also owns its “air traffic control” system in the form of tracks, switches, and other equipment.
(Tip of the hat to @spn1971)