Delta operating chief departs abruptly

Jim Whitehurst was central to management of airline through bankruptcy

Anderson and Bastian said the airline will have about 30 planes that it can put on planned new routes to China and other locations in Asia, Africa and Latin America over the next two years without buying more aircraft beyond its current orders.

Anderson said Delta will also concentrate over the next 90 days on "tactical" moves such as improving commuter carrier service and its international business-class product by sprucing up its seats, cabins and airport lounges.

Another key task facing Anderson and Bastian will be meeting employees in coming weeks to keep up morale. Many employees rallied around Delta and Grinstein last winter when US Airways made a hostile takeover bid. Whitehurst also was credited with helping boost morale by leading dozens of sessions to explain the carrier's goals during the 19-month bankruptcy reorganization.

Bastian said maintaining employee morale is "a fair concern," but one that he and Anderson will quickly address. "I think once the employees get the chance to meet Richard ... the concerns will be put to bed," he said. "We've got a great leader here."

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