K. Evan Plaskett ‘97
Manager-Transatlantic Joint Venture
International Network Planning,
Delta Air Lines
“When I came onboard at Delta in 1998, a fellow '97 Patterson alum recalled the first conversation we ever had. Standing together at Dr. Vince Davis' cookout for new students, he had asked where I hoped to go after graduation. My undergraduate studies were in French, international affairs and math, with no formal business training whatsoever. Nevertheless, I mused that "it might be interesting to work for an airline and help decide where they should fly." Two years later, thanks to the new skills and perspectives I developed at Patterson, my career took off in precisely that direction.
If someone speaks of an American, a Frenchman, a Dutchman, an Italian, and an airplane, what's often expected next are some poignant cultural stereotypes and a tale of too few parachutes. For me, what comes next is tough international bargaining, serious number crunching and a profitable solution for all involved. Delta has a joint venture with Air France, KLM and Alitalia under which we share all revenues and costs on our North America-Europe networks. My responsibility is ensuring that our aircraft assets are deployed as profitably as possible. Success here calls for exceptional diplomatic tradecraft. Each carrier brings its own history, culture and strengths to the table, placing a premium on cross-cultural understanding and solid negotiation skills. While we don't always agree on everything, the ability to work through our different viewpoints to arrive at the best overall bottom line has made this joint venture more effective and more profitable (JV annual revenue is now over $11 billion, with about 250 transatlantic flights daily – 26% of total industry capacity).
Being able to shift gears on the fly and be knowledgeable about many parts of the company and the world is something I attribute to Patterson's multidisciplinary approach. The program developed my ability to apply critical thinking and analytical skills to the wide variety of situations that I face everyday in the corporate world. Whether forecasting a new transoceanic route or helping our Government Affairs and Legal teams prepare positions to present to the Department of Transportation, the European Commission and other regulatory agencies, my training has delivered. Understanding political risk has been particularly important when considering new service into developing regions. I must engage Corporate Security and Flight Operations to be certain our aircraft can operate safely and reliably into and out of these potential new stations before Delta commits to opening them. In times of upheaval (like Cairo in early 2011), I work closely with colleagues from these and other departments to assess the long-term viability of our services in crisis-impacted markets.
I'm exceptionally glad I chose the Patterson School for my graduate education. Its unique curriculum and the skills that I acquired there continue to play a very significant role in my career success. Diplomacy and international commerce. That's my job.”