Airlines are making big profits, and CEOs are cashing in.
Delta Air Lines Inc. disclosed Thursday that CEO Richard Anderson got a 22 percent increase in compensation last year, to nearly $17.6 million.
That put Anderson ahead of the CEOs of American and United, which are bigger airlines by passenger traffic and capacity. He's also more highly paid than the chief executive of Southwest, who was recently touted by Fortune magazine as the most underrated for any industry.
As is typical for top executives now, Anderson received most of his compensation in stock awards — they were valued at nearly $9.6 million when granted. He also got options valued at $3.8 million, $3.1 million in incentives, a $790,625 salary and nearly $300,000 in perks, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Atlanta-based Delta reported net income of $659 million last year, although that included write-downs of fuel-hedging contracts. Without those and other special items, the airline would have earned $2.8 billion.
Shareholders saw their stock rise in value by 79 percent — slightly more than United's shares but far behind the appreciation for American and Southwest shareholders.
Anderson was more richly compensated that American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, $12.3 million; United Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek, $11.3 million; and Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly, $5 million.
An executive-compensation expert writing this week in Fortune magazine ranked Kelly and Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden as the two most underrated CEOs for boosting profits and shareholder returns while getting "modest" pay increases. Tilden got about $2.9 million after excluding the 2014 change in value of pension benefits granted in prior years.
The Associated Press calculation of executive compensation is based on a company filing with SEC. It aims to isolate the value company boards place on CEOs' total compensation package. It includes salary, bonus, incentives, perks and the estimated value of stock options and awards