"Maybe some pilots represented by ALPA think it's not always a great idea to be close to management." Anderson said. "I think that Lee has broken the mold and proven that when we all cooperate, the industry does better and the employees do better. (At Delta) we have moved from a regulated era of 'us vs. them' to 'we're all in this together,' and we trust each other and work together to make our airline successful."

Jason Goldberg, an American pilot and principal in The Leading Edge consulting firm, said pilots respect Moak because he is "a charismatic, pragmatic well-spoken guy" whose approach benefited Delta and its pilots. Moak's influence was enhanced by "a historical culture at Delta that was much more trusting between employees and management than other (airline cultures)," Goldberg said. "They had a foundation they could build on."

Moak's leadership derives from "moderating expectations for both airline management and airline pilots," said aviation consultant Robert Mann. "He's done that by describing the benefits of growing the pie for everyone, as opposed to arguing about the size of each slice of the pie."

Moak and Anderson "worked together at Delta to tame the pilot seniority integration problem and get the economics to work (and) were able to very quickly get the benefits of Delta's expanded network," Mann said. "That became the model for how to do it well." As for Parker, Mann said he should be recognized for "not worrying about getting a bloody nose now and then."

Moak, a 55-year-old native of Tulsa, Okla., who resides in New Orleans, was elected chairman of the Delta ALPA chapter in August 2005, a month before the carrier sought bankruptcy protection. He served three terms until January 2011, when he took office as ALPA president.

In September 2010, Moak laid out his vision of airline/pilot relations in a letter to Delta pilots, where he declared that "anger is not a strategy." He discussed his approach, quoting Sun Tzu, an ancient Chinese warrior and author of The Art of War, as saying: "It is the unemotional, reserved, calm, detached warrior who wins, not the hothead seeking vengeance and not the ambitious seeker of fortune."

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