< PrevNext > Ed Bastian, Delta Air Lines CEO The Partner By Michael B. Baker / December 14, 2017 / Contact Reporter Share As all three U.S. legacy carriers have tightened up their relationships with key global carriers in recent years, Delta, under the leadership of CEO Ed Bastian, is investing billions of dollars to strengthen its voice in its partnerships.The relationship with Air France-KLM is the granddaddy of Delta's global alliance strategy, dating back to the Northwest Airlines and KLM joint venture forged in 1993. And this year, Delta upped that game with a 375 million-euro investment to acquire a 10 percent stake in Air France-KLM, also gaining a seat on its board of directors. Simultaneously, Air France-KLM announced a 31 percent stake in Virgin Atlantic—Delta already had a 49 percent stake in the carrier—as the carriers began combining their partnerships into a single, transatlantic, mega JV, which Bastian projects will be completed in 2018.This year, Delta also acquired nearly a third of Aeromexico's shares to bump its stake in that airline up to 36.2 percent; it has options to increase its share further. Delta began a new JV with Aeromexico this year, as well.In all, Delta has invested about $2 billion over the past five years in partner carriers, which also include China Eastern and Brazil's Gol. "We're not doing it as airline investors," Bastian told BTN. "We're doing it to have the greatest impact and influence for our customers as they travel internationally. We found that while commercial relationships or contracts are a great start, the real value, the real alignment and the real investment decisions need to be occurring as owners with similar outcomes."Delta firmed up other partnerships this year, as well, including a new one with Korean Air that Bastian said will be the industry's largest transpacific JV. The U.S. Department of Transportation has given its consent to that deal, and Bastian expects the Korean authorities will sign off sometime next year. And just this month, Delta announced a joint business agreement with Canadian carrier WestJet, bringing its total number of partnerships to eight.