Who Is Richard H. Anderson?

Richard H. Anderson is an American businessman who has made a career out of helping companies in the transportation sector. His past career highlights include the CEO positions at Northwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines. In 2013 he was awarded the Tony Jannus Award for distinguished service in the commercial airline industry, and in 2015 was named Aviation Week’s “Person of the Year.” During his tenure as the CEO of Delta Air Lines, Anderson was the prime mover behind the Delta-Northwest merger, and therefore responsible for creating the world’s largest airline.

He has also served as chairman of the Airlines for America board of directors, as well as the International Air Transport Association board of governors. Anderson was most recently CEO of Amtrak, stepping down at the end of 2020.

Key Takeaways

  • Richard H. Anderson is an American business executive, known best for leading transportation companies.
  • Born in 1955, Anderson has been a top executive at Northwest Airlines, Delta Airlines, and Amtrak.
  • He began his career as a lawyer for Continental Airlines in 1987.

Early Life of Richard H. Anderson

Anderson was born in 1955 in Galveston, Texas. His parents died when he was nineteen and left him to take care of his two younger sisters. He took a job as a ditch digger to support them and began pursuing an undergraduate degree at Texas Tech and the University of Houston, from which he graduated in 1977 with a degree in political science. In 1982 he graduated from South Texas College of Law and took a job in the prosecutor’s office in Harris County, Texas.

Rise of Richard H. Anderson

Anderson had no aims towards a corporate career, but in 1987 he applied for an open position at Continental Airlines in their legal department. Anderson was hired and served as the company’s legal representative for a crash that took place, putting Anderson in the industry spotlight.

In 1990, Anderson took a job with Northwest Airlines as the deputy general counsel, specializing in labor issues and government regulations, a position that provided him a deep knowledge of the workings of the company and the airline industry in general. By 2001, he worked his way up the ladder to the company’s CEO position, only to leave the company and the airline industry to take a position as executive vice president of United Healthcare from 2004 to 2007. Anderson returned to the industry in 2007 to join Delta Air Lines and with his experience with both Northwest and Delta, he was able to successfully bring them both together to form the world’s largest airline. It remains the top airline by revenue as of 2020.

In 2017, Anderson became the President and CEO of Amtrak in a three-year contract that provides Anderson with a "token sum" salary. He stepped down three years later, announcing on April 15th, 2020, that he would leave the position at the end of the year.