Book review: Glory Lost and Found

Sept. 8, 2016Glory Lost and Found: How Delta Climbed from Despair to Dominance in the Post-9/11 Era is a ponderous title for a ponderous book.

But this is not a criticism.

Glory Lost is one of the best books I’ve ever read about the turmoil in the airline industry. Authors Seth Kaplan and Jay Shabat, two journalists, put together a book of nearly 450 pages that goes beyond just the focus of how Delta Air Lines spiraled into bankruptcy following 9/11, emerged and suffered through more travails after the 2008 financial market meltdown.

Kaplan and Shabat, in fact, go into so much detail that the book does become ponderous. But the ancillary stories about the impact of low cost carriers, fuel hedging, mergers involving Continental and United airlines, US Airways M&A ambitions (including the hostile takeover attempt of Delta), international alliances in Europe and Japan, all are important to the Delta story.

The book is as much a history of the industry since 9/11 as it is about Delta.

The authors bring reams of quotes for key participants from a variety of airlines, not just Delta’s. But we also get a colorful look at Jerry Grinstein, CEO of Delta during the US Airways hostile takeover effort and during Delta’s bankruptcy. Grinstein is humanized in a way other histories fail to examine.

Fleet decisions, explaining Delta’s preference for old, cheap airplanes, are discussed. Northwest Airlines’ travails are examined–clearly a key element in Delta’s future merger with the airline.

It’s not easy reading, and there’s no relief from page after page of dense print–no charts, graphs and no center-of-the-book set of pictures of airplanes or executives.

But for the dedicated aviation geek, this is a must-read history. Just be prepared to a need to take many breaks from the dense nature of reading that comes with it.

Glory Lost may be purchased through Amazon and other outlets.

28 Comments on “Book review: Glory Lost and Found

  1. I knew NWAC as a down to earth smart airline and saw many tactics back in the new Delta when they merged.

    • Do you say this because they were the first airline from the US to order aircraft from Airbus? 😉

        • I expected that reply. It is true, but initially the airplanes were leased. After a period of six months or so they could decide if they wanted to keep them or not. But they were more than happy and Frank Borman said at that time that Airbus had the best aeronautical engineers in the world. And he knew because he was one himself. Anyway, I am not sure they really bought them because there is a rumour that says Airbus sold them for the price of gaz between Toulouse and New York.

          Just joking. I just want to add that I had the A320 in mind when I said NW was the first airline that bought aircraft from Airbus. And I do recall that at one point they were the largest Airbus operator in North America, after Air Canada; i.e., the largest operator in the United States. That being said, I do stand corrected.

    • Glory Lost and Found: How Delta Climbed from Despair to Dominance in the Post-9/22 Era

      9/22 Era? What happened on 9/22?

  2. I like the title of the book which is obviously a play on words related to the airlines’s lost and found departments that play an important role for most of them. This book is reportedly very detailed, but I was wondering if we learn a great deal about other airlines as well, or if the authors only discuss Delta issues.

    • There’s very little the authors don’t discuss, which is part of the problem with the book. The following is a paragraph taken from the book, which gives an idea of why an editor was desperately needed.

      *****

      Financial markets weren’t alone in living a lie. A world of false assumptions extended to American cultural life too. Just as those home loans weren’t really as good as they seemed, neither were some of America’s most iconic sports figures of the post-9/ 11 years. In 2002, the cyclist Lance Armstrong won his fourth straight Tour de France, followed by his fifth straight in 2003, and then his sixth and his seventh. In baseball, a bulked-up Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants won the National League most valuable player award in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. His American League rival Alex Rodriquez, playing first in Gerald Grinstein’s hometown Seattle before moving to Texas and then to the bright lights of New York City, became perhaps the biggest baseball star of them all. In 2001 and 2004, Roger Clemens won baseball’s annual Cy Young award given to its best pitcher, first with the New York Yankees and then with the Houston Astros. These players and others, it would later emerge, had allegedly been cheating. Tiger Woods, meanwhile— the winner of the 2001, 2002 and 2005 Masters golf tournaments and nine other “majors,” as golf’s most important tournaments are known, during the decade— was engaged, it would also later emerge, in a different kind of cheating.

      • I have put the book in my Amazon Wish List. But after reading your post I think it will stay there and gather dust.

  3. It’s an impenetrable mass of information thrown indiscriminately at the reader. There’s a decent book in there, but one that would be, at most, half the size. It’s a real shame, because they’ve done most of the research, but they really need a ruthless editor to whip it into shape.

  4. So… is this a case of Delta starting to believe their own BS?

    Or is it the authors?

    • Thanks for posting this. Don’t mention it to him, but I think Scott is sleeping at the controls. 🙂

      Bloomberg: “While Boeing had penciled in a commercial debut for the Max 10 in late 2021, “that’s just too late,” Plueger said. “I believe they’re looking at moving that up meaningfully. But if you’re going to do a one-two punch, you’ve got to do a one-two timely, especially the one part.”

      Well said. Nothing to add to this… punch line.

      • What’s the two part?I suggest that Boeing doesn’t try and punch Airbus, it’ll only make them angry.

        • Boeing are in a precarious position to deliver a punch to Airbus at this time, because the latter has the former on the ropes.

      • To hear another announcement by Boeing about the 737-10 makes me tired. I guess Scott did get far more 737-10 reports than I and therefore falls asleep about that topic. He will wake up in case something real happens and not just the usual Boeing PR:”[737-10] would offer much of the range and payload of Airbus’s A321neo, […]” – The point is: still less than the A321neo.

  5. Grinstein was a class act. He was clearly the best Delta CEO in the last thirty years.

    • Sorry, Richard Anderson has that title. What Anderson accomplished at Delta in the last decade is nothing short of phenomenal.

    • Well, Scott does say in the third paragraph above that it’s one of the best books he’s read re: turmoil in the airline industry. Presumably very worth the $9.95 for the Kindle edition. And, geez, if you can wait six months, it’ll probably be down to $13.50 or less for the hardback! Scott, do you want to elaborate further?

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