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How Delta Transformed Vision into Reality in Paris and Seattle

Stocks in this article: ALK DAL UAL

ATLANTA -- ( TheStreet) -- It was five years ago Wednesday that Delta (DAL) announced a joint venture with AirFrance, bringing the hub at Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport into Delta's network.

This is a story about how successful businesses create visions of the future and then, over time, translate them into reality.

On a conference call with reporters following the announcement, Executive Vice President Glen Hauenstein said that KLM and Northwest "have had incredible success" building the Amsterdam hub through an alliance. "If they can make such a success of Detroit to Amsterdam, what kind of success can we have on better routes like Atlanta and New York to Paris?" he asked.

Six months later, in March 2008, a month before Delta and Northwest announced a merger, Hauenstein was again chatting with reporters (they love him), this time as Delta executives flew home after taking delivery of their first Boeing (BA) 777-200L in Seattle. Hauenstein displayed a Delta route map and pointed to Seattle. The city is the closest U.S. gateway to Asia, he said, and would be the perfect place for Delta to add Asian service.

Last week, Delta moved to buttress both of both of Hauenstein's visions: It announced plans to add flights next summer to Paris, where it will have 11 U.S. destinations, as well as to Shanghai and Tokyo Haneda from Seattle.

Both expansions represent "a natural evolution of what we've been doing the past few years," said Bob Cortelyou, Delta senior vice president of network planning, who met Hauenstein on his first day of work at Continental in 1990 and has worked with him much of the time since then. Cortelyou and Hauenstein both joined Delta in 2005.

From Paris, Delta will add service to Boston and to Newark, a United (UAL) hub, and expand service to its own hubs in Detroit and Atlanta. Atlanta will have four daily Paris flights on AirFrance and Delta. With the expansion, Delta will serve Paris from six U.S. hubs and from Newark, Boston, Seattle, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Many of the cities will have lie-flat seats in business class.

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