Delta CEO Ed Bastian saw his compensation rise to $34 million last year

Delta CEO Ed Bastian arrives to celebrate profit sharing day at the Atlanta Customer Engagement Center in Hapeville on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (Ben Gray /

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Delta CEO Ed Bastian arrives to celebrate profit sharing day at the Atlanta Customer Engagement Center in Hapeville on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (Ben Gray /

Delta CEO Ed Bastian saw his total compensation skyrocket to $34.2 million for 2023, thanks in part to a one-time bonus after leading the company through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Delta’s board gave Bastian a $20 million “one-time enhanced award” that includes $10 million cash over two years and $10 million in stock awards that vest over three years based on performance — so it also serves as a retention bonus. Bastian has been CEO of Delta since 2016.

The one-time payout makes Bastian among the highest-paid CEOs to lead a company in Georgia.

UPS CEO Carol Tomé made $23.4 million in total compensation in 2023. Equifax CEO Mark Begor last year was paid $13 million, down from $37.2 million the year before. Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey had total compensation of $24.7 million last year. Home Depot CEO Edward (Ted) Decker’s total 2023 compensation was $14.4 million.

The one-time award to Bastian was made based on the importance of his “continuing, long‑term leadership of Delta” and his contributions to the company’s performance over the last three years, according to a company filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday. It also ties his future compensation with the company’s performance for shareholders.

Bastian’s 2023 salary remained unchanged at $950,000 a year. But he also received a separate multi-million dollar bonus from the company’s long-term incentive plan.

All told, the CEO’s compensation last year included $17 million in stock awards, $9.6 million in bonuses and more than $6 million in other incentives.

His total compensation more than tripled from the $9.6 million he made the previous year.

“Delta’s leadership prioritized the health, safety and well‑being of our employees and customers throughout the pandemic, which strengthened our competitive advantages,” wrote Sergio Rial, chair of the Delta board’s personnel & compensation committee, in a letter to shareholders in the filing. He added that “considering the disproportionate impact the pandemic had on Mr. Bastian’s and our other tenured executive officers’ total compensation and prior incentive awards, a one‑time enhancement was added to their regular long‑term incentive award.”

Delta reported a $4.6 billion profit for 2023 as millions of travelers took to the skies. It also paid $1.4 billion in profit sharing bonuses to its employees in February, and is giving many of its employees a 5% raise this year as it faces unionization campaigns among its workforce.

Unions have also been pushing for Delta to agree to a non-interference policy that would prohibit the company from influencing workers’ decision to join a union, or pressuring workers to vote against unionization. A proposal for such a policy from environmental and social corporate accountability shareholder advocacy group As You Sow, which failed last year, is again up for a Delta shareholder vote at the company’s annual meeting June 20. Delta opposes the measure.

Delta also disclosed in its filing, as required by SEC rules, that the median total compensation for its employees was $101,947.

That makes the ratio of Bastian’s total compensation to the median employee’s 336 to 1.

Delta president Glen Hauenstein and Delta executive vice president Peter Carter also each got a one-time enhanced award, with Hauenstein receiving $8.5 million and Carter getting $5.5 million including both stock and cash awards that pay out over time.

That boosted Hauenstein’s 2023 total compensation to $19.6 million, up from $5.8 million the previous year.

Carter got $13.1 million in total compensation, up from nearly $4 million the previous year.

Those payouts were made “to reward their outstanding leadership through the pandemic and to ensure their retention with the company,” according to the filing.

If the executives leave the company before certain awards vest, they would forfeit them.

The board emphasized that the payouts were one-time payments and “not intended to be part of their regular target annual compensation.”

Separately, Delta announced two new board members, Automatic Data Processing CEO Maria Black and Plains All American Pipeline CEO Willie Chiang. They replace retiring board members Bill Easter and Jeanne Jackson.