Delta Leaders

C.E. Woolman's Quotes


Through good times and bad, Delta founder C.E. Woolman's faith in aviation's future never flagged. Here are C.E. Woolman's most famous quotes, which he used in many variations whenever he faced an audience of Delta employees:

  • "Any individual or business that is completely honest in all its dealings is likely to succeed."
  • "Let's put ourselves on the other side of the counter. We have a responsibility over and above the price of a ticket."
  • "Bring me one more passenger!"
  • "Quality begins with people."
  • "No one person is an airline. An airline is a team. It must be friendly, courteous, cooperative, efficient and bound as closely as a devoted family."
  • "An employee's devotion to his or her company, dedication to the job and consideration for the customer determine a company's reputation.
  • "It is never sufficient to just transport people. We must transport people and goods with the highest respect and safety."
  • "Consideration is an extension of safety. It begins with the first contact with our passengers, no matter where this is—reservations, porter, ticket agent or wherever. Make the customer feel special. There's more to flying than just buying a ticket."
  • "Make the best with what you have. We need to make a profit, but watch carefully how our money is spent."
  • "Do the best you can in your job, but if you come across some way to save while doing your job, then do it."
  • "Be considerate of your fellow employees."
  • "The only monotonous thing about the aviation industry is the constant change."

From the 1957 This is Delta film (view on YouTube):
"One thing is unchanged; a concept of customer service expressed in our slogan, Service and Hospitality from the Heart. We've always tried to put ourselves on the other side of the counter and treat our passengers as we would like to be treated. We believe that an airline has a responsibility to the public over and above the price of the airline ticket. We've tried to live up to that responsibility.

The airline industry is keenly competitive. All of us have good planes, the only way in which we can excel is in the quality of our service. And this is where the human factor enters.

No one individual can create an airline. An airline is a team. Members of the Delta team have put the meaning in our slogan of Service and Hospitality from the Heart through teamwork."

Additional Woolman quotes arranged by subject:

"We have the opportunity to contribute in some measure to the cause of better international understanding. At home or abroad, each of us has the responsibility in our job to ensure that the impressions we make are those which reflect credit not only upon ourselves, but upon our company and the country of which we are privileged to be citizens."

"Where there are Delta people, it is a better community. We like to be a part of the town...the community...and we put something into it.”

"No passenger ever meets a corporation. All that most passengers ever know about Delta are the reservationist's voice, the smile of the ticket agent, and the stewardess' immediate interest in their comfort. The reputation of the company rests individually with every one of us."

"The individual people of Delta will determine whether we maintain our reputation for customer service. Every employee has the power to destroy or uphold that tradition for courtesy and real hospitality."

"Airplanes are more or less standard. Fares are uniform. Competitive services are often available. The quality of Delta's service, the attitude of its people, will determine who gets the business." August 1946

[Creating a Delta "difference" was the core of Woolman's service philosophy.]
"For years, Delta flew planes similar to those of other airlines, at identical fares. Delta's success came not just from good operations and efficiency but above all from the friendly spirit of Delta and the way Delta employees handled the public. Now, Delta is growing and growing fast. Yet, we will never have any monopoly. We will always compete with planes of similar speed and comfort and identical fares. If we continue to grow, it will be because we can expand without losing the 'difference' that made Delta's reputation." Late 1940s

"We want to run every flight efficiently and give excellent service complete in every detail."

"One of the most effective ways we can be real competitors is to give the finest service possible…If we continue to be honest and fair and courteous and friendly to all of our passengers, we will more than hold our own."

"Delta's friendly voice and personal attention now have the backing of electronic speed and accuracy." Commenting on the launch of the industry-leading Deltamatic electronic reservations system in 1964

"We are able to attract the high type of employee necessary to perform one of the most outstandingly efficient operations in the industry."

"The character of our company…it's not me…it's US. You are the character of this company…everyone of you. Character isn't just being nice to people. Character is being efficient; character is being productive."

"Because a family must work together, we've got to be imbued with the same thoughts and the same ideals and the same ambitions and the same determination…if we are going to succeed."

"It is the initiative, the personal attitudes and the motivations of our people as they approach their daily work upon which we rely for acceptance, for growth, and for survival."

Advice to a Delta stewardess graduating class in 1960:
"I believe that character and integrity and honor still count for something—among individuals and among corporations. And I think that courage is still admired—including the courage to adhere to one's convictions even when they may run counter to the popular view. Dependability and a willingness to work are also attributes which still have meaning in America—and everywhere. I believe, too, that the person who approaches his job with the attitude of putting more into it than is required by the employment contract, and who is more concerned with the challenge it offers than with pension rights at age 65, will advance farther in life—and will derive infinitely greater satisfaction and material rewards from his work."

"I fear the onslaught of the creeping philosophy of 'Let Joe do it'—of the idea that 'I'll do my job and you do yours, and never the 'twain shall meet.'"

"Running an airline is like having a baby: fun to conceive, but hell to deliver."

"Inspiration, and above all, vision is needed on the part of those who control the destiny of our company."

"Our task is to ensure that people are not denied the opportunity to realize their creative potential."

"Good will pays dividends...and good will is an asset that won't show up on the balance sheet, but is the most important factor in operating a successful airline."

"Delta's success came not just from good operations and efficiency, but above all from the friendly spirit of Delta and the way Delta employees handled the public."

"Aviation's success can only be measured in its growing appeal to greater and greater numbers of customers."

"There is only about two percent difference between success and failure—and that two percent is the determination and singleness of purpose that makes us do things. Without it, we are just another airline—with it, nothing can stop us."

"Whatever successes we have achieved in the past, and whatever we may enjoy in the future depend upon the priceless asset of a deep-seated and meaningful personal integrity."

"Develop a thirst for knowledge. This will lead to an ability to reason…to reduce the complicated to simplicity and to make prudent decisions."

"Knowledge is our ultimate defense, and ideas the ultimate weapon upon which we must depend."

"We've got to think more than we've ever thought before. We've got to meet our unforeseen problems so intelligently that we'll have no regrets when we look back."

Delta doesn't necessarily want to be the biggest airline in the country, but we want to be the best." Atlanta-Los Angeles inaugural service, 1961

Speaking to the Delta sales team at their 1957 conference:
"We're all working for the future of our company, ourselves, and where do we go from here? With you folks behind me, I'm not worried about where Delta's going…Just run Delta along the lines we've established and twenty to thirty years from now, it will be the most outstanding transportation system in America. Ours is the Future Unlimited if we work and do those things we know to do. Fill those seats, keep us the finest, cleanest airline in America. Let's make this the best year we have ever had—and get me that extra passenger."

Shortly before starting airline service on June 17, 1929:
"Aviation is the youngest big industry, but it is the fastest growing baby ever. A few years ago, it was called impossible to fly…The day of the airplane is surely here." April 17, 1929

On the impact of World War II:
"Out of every evil must come some good, it is said. From this war, which has been forced upon us, will come some of the outstanding developments in the comparatively short history of aviation…From these united efforts will come many things; and, when this war is ended, we will find the air industry advanced at least a dozen years almost overnight." January 22, 1942

"The next phase of aviation development, the second fifty years, will be just as remarkable as the first fifty. If I were trying to name this second half from 1953-2003, I would call it the engineering vs. economic era."

"The dawning Jet Age holds bright promise for expanding world travel and world trade. Both can be powerful and persuasive forces for peace."

"The Jet Age which looms ahead constitutes a challenge for us all, but at the same time it holds great promise. It inspires the hope that men of good will in all nations—only hours distant from each other because of the speed of flight—will join hands to strengthen and to expand free institutions everywhere." 1955

Referring to Delta's purchase of its first jet, the Douglas DC-8:
"We are buying airplanes that haven't yet been fully designed with millions of dollars we don't have and are going to operate them off airports that are too small, in an air traffic control system that is too slow and we must fill them with more passengers than we have ever carried before." Aviation Week magazine, January 16, 1957

"Each of the many forward steps in aviation which have occurred since your company first began passenger service 30 years ago has been accompanied by its own unique problems, and the forthcoming jet era will be no exception. Delta personnel, experience, and equipment enable us to face the future with confidence, and we look forward to continuing full participation in this new chapter in aviation history." September 9, 1959

Inaugural of Delta's jet service (Atlanta-New York):
"This is a proud occasion for Delta Air Lines. We take deep pride in being the first airline in the world to place the magnificent new Douglas DC-8 in scheduled service. We are particularly proud to be able to bring Atlanta, our headquarters and our hometown, and the State of Georgia its first pure jet service. We believe that our future—and the South's future—in the Jet Age is unlimited. September 18, 1959

"I'm not worried about Delta's ability to maintain its place in the jet age. Delta Employees and Delta Experience can meet the challenge." September 19, 1959

"I'm optimistic about the future of air transportation. The introduction of the jets has created a lot of problems. But this industry grew up on problems—and it grew because it solved them." March 11, 1960