NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It's not a bad time to be an airline executive -- or a shareholder at one of their companies.
According to a WSJ study published on Wednesday, the chief executive officers of four of the biggest airlines in the United States received compensation boosts in 2014. Their investors enjoyed hefty returns as well.
The International Air Transport Association reported on June 8 that the air transportation industry made $16.4 billion in net profit in 2014. It also made an upward adjustment its 2015 industry outlook. IATA now estimates $29.3 billion in net profit for the year, more than half of which is expected to be generated by airlines based in North America.
A recent Barron's article argues that airline stocks could rise up to 50% thanks to less competition and declining fuel costs, but not everyone is in agreement. In June, Raymond James (RJF) analysts downgraded three major U.S. air carriers.
Debates about 2015 aside, leading airline carriers delivered in a big way in 2014. Here are four airline CEOs who made money for themselves and their shareholders last year.
Delta Air Lines (DAL) chief executive Richard Anderson brought in $17.6 million in 2014 -- a 22.4% increase from the year prior.
For Delta investors, Anderson helped steer the way to an 80.5% return in 2014. The company also returned $1.35 billion to stockholders through a combination of quarterly cash dividends and share repurchases.
Richard Anderson's base salary increased to $790,625 in 2014 from $725,000 in 2013; his stock awards reached $9.6 million from $8.9 million, his option awards $3.8 million from $2.0 million, and his non-equity compensation $3.1 million from $2.5 million.
Delta is sharing the wealth with its workers. In September, the company said in a letter to employees reviewed by Forbes that it would give every employee a 5% profit-sharing payout in 2014 and promised 2015 raises for all of its front-line employees.
Delta representatives did not respond to a request for comment.