Sept. 8, 2016: Glory 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.