< PrevNext > Ed Bastian, Delta CEO The Director By Michael B. Baker / December 12, 2018 / Contact Reporter Share Bastian's global alliance and investment strategy earned him a place on this list last year. This year, the influence that strategy is enabling became clearer.One of the most striking examples was the announcement by Air France-KLM, in which Delta has a 10 percent stake, that its new CEO would be Benjamin Smith. Bastian said he "was involved in his hiring." Smith, the former operations chief for Air Canada, joined Air France at a turbulent time. The carrier has been besieged over the past year by strikes that ultimately resulted in the departure of Smith's predecessor. The choice of Smith was not without controversy, as he is the first non-French leader of Air France-KLM and some union leaders laid the influence at Delta's feet when deriding the choice.Air France since has reached an agreement with the unions representing its ground staff and cabin crew, though it has yet to reach an agreement with its pilot and flight attendant unions. At the same time, Delta is using its resources to help Air France improve operations at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and is ironing out "technology seams" between the two companies, Bastian said. This comes as Delta and Air France also are consolidating their joint business with Virgin Atlantic, in which Delta has a 49 percent stake, into a single joint business agreement. "We've decided that for us, we can't effect change on behalf of customers if you're sitting solely in a commercial relationship," Bastian said. "You have to have a seat inside the boardroom, have a seat at the table, to make the change happen and hold them accountable."Among the other carriers at whose table Delta has a seat are Aeromexico, Brazilian carrier Gol and China Eastern. Delta's strengthening relationship with the latter was one of the factors that also prompted China Southern, which has been building a relationship with American Airlines, to depart SkyTeam this year. Delta's influence extends beyond those carriers in which it has a financial investment. Take WestJet, with which Delta announced a joint business agreement late in 2017. Over the past several years, the Canadian carrier has been transforming from a low-cost-carrier model to a more full-service model, with premium options targeting managed corporate travelers. Delta has given WestJet advice and help in that transformation.