Among airlines, Delta ( DALRQ) seems to have broken the mold when it comes to bankruptcy filings.That's because rather than just focusing on cutting expenses, Delta has made aggressive moves to reinvent itself outright since it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September 2005. "Delta is no longer a large regional airline -- it is a large international airline," Chief Executive Gerald Grinstein said last week as the carrier introduced nine new international flights. The latest flights build on the 50 new international routes it has added or announced since the summer of 2005. During that time, Delta's
The second US Airways ( LCC) bankruptcy in 2004 was successful because the cost-cutting led to a merger that created a stronger carrier and saved more than 20,000 jobs. TWA's three bankruptcies had various causes; the final one, in 2002, was intended to pave the way for a takeover by American Airlines ( AMR). Recent bankruptcies, at United Air Lines ( UAUA) and Northwest ( NWACQ), seem primarily focused on labor-cost reductions. To be sure, unlike Delta, both carriers had strong international route systems before filing. It is no wonder the 74-year-old Grinstein is talking publicly about retirement, now that he is close to the end of an effort that seems both unprecedented and successful. Last week, he reiterated that he will remain at Delta through the end of the bankruptcy and depart soon afterwards. Grinstein says he is often asked when exactly he plans on retiring and he often prefaces his response by quoting Warren Buffett: "Before I answer that, which way do you want it to go?" Although the airline industry is awash in merger talk -- primarily because two carriers remain in bankruptcy -- Grinstein says he doesn't foresee any mergers at all, either with or without Delta. Asked about the possibility of consolidation, he says: "I don't look for it to take place in the near term ... I don't look for it to take place anytime." Two years from now, Grinstein says, he expects the major carriers to be aligned, by and large, in the same way they are now.