Why A Delta Pilot is Suing the Airline for $1 Billion

Delta

Delta Airlines started as a crop dusting service in Louisiana. B.R. Coad and C.E. Woolman were working towards finding a solution for the boll weevil problem and thought that dusting the crops would be the best way to take care of the problem. They became part of Huff Daland Dusters in 1924. As the company continued, Woolman made frequent passenger trips to Peru, helping to create passenger and crop dusting services. When he returned in 1928, he decided to buy Huff Deland Dusters and turn it into commercial passenger service. According to Georgia Encyclopedia, Woolman purchased several Travel Air six-seat monoplanes and made the first Delta flight from Love Field in Dallas to Jackson, Mississippi. Over the next four years, the company expanded to multiple cities in the south. Over the next twenty years, Delta continued to expand, and in 1955 they were approved for service from Atlanta to New York. Additionally, they offered assistance to Philadelphia, Baltimore, Maryland, Charlotte, North Carolina. The same year they introduced the concept of using hubs for airlines to make air travel more efficient. In 1987, the company made its first transpacific flight. Delta has continued to meet challenges head-on even through the ups and downs of the airline industry. However, recently they had a current employee lodge an unprecedented lawsuit over an app he created.

Grounded

Captain Craig Alexander is an eleven-year veteran of Delta Airlines. In 2014, he began to work on an app designed to help flights stay on track. His idea blossomed in 2016 when a power outage caused multiple flights to be grounded, and Delta lost a lot of money. He knew there was a better solution, and he was determined to find it. He decided to present the app to Delta executives. In an e-mail to CEO Ed Bastian, he said he had a solution and received a response to contact CIO Rahul Samant. In 2015, he talked with Delta executives about an app he’d self-funded called QrewLive for personnel who works for the airline. Despite the positive feedback, the airline opted against continuing with the app. Yet, in 2018 they launched an app of their own called Flight Family Communications. According to Business Insider, Craig Alexender is suing Delta Airlines for a billion dollars. This amount is based on what he believes the airline has saved since utilizing their version of his app. Newsone ran an article about the lawsuit; Alexander alleged that he and Delta Airlines had reached a verbal agreement and they would be purchasing the messaging platform. Morgan and Morgan is the law firm representing him. In a statement, they said, “Captain Alexander spent countless hours and more than a hundred thousand dollars of his own money developing the innovative, game-changing communications platform for Delta, only to have his own employer steal it right out from under him like a thief in the night.” Besides investing his own money, it’s likely the airline is has been saving significant amounts of capital over the years. Some estimate it is hundreds of millions a year.

Clash of information

Delta responded to Captain Alexander’s claims that the company stole intellectual property by saying that he was falsifying information. Additionally, they draw no parallels between Captain Alexanders App and the one Delta is currently using. Besides the company, two people he’s singled out are CEO ED Bastian and CIO Rahul Samant, listed on the lawsuit with four unidentified people. In the lawsuit, Captain Alexander states that both Bastian and Samant eagerly told potential investors about the app and how it was a great solution to the problem it addressed delayed flights. One of the worst things is that he still works for the airline and uses this app every day. It’s a painful reminder that his idea was taken and that proprietary information he gave Delta is now being used, and he hasn’t received compensation for his work and innovation. Moreover, because he still works at Delta, the company could counter that they own the rights to anything one of their employees produces. Captain Alexander maintains that Delta did not regard the app as something internal that belonged to the company during purchasing negotiations.

Allegations

Racial injustice may be a contributing factor in this case. Ed Bastian is one of the people who feel that Georgia’s new voting laws were a significant step forward even though it’s voter suppression. Moreover, Captain Alexander’s case strongly resembles a former NCCA basketball coach whose idea to draw attention to historically black colleges and universities was dismissed and still used. Georgia has been ground zero for a lot of racial and political division since January. It’s challenging to think that a company like Delta’s website touts its diversity would discriminate against a veteran pilot. Yet, it’s hard to determine how Delta could have done something so egregious from all the information coming to light.

Final thoughts

Yo-Yo Ma said, “passion is one great force that unleashes creativity because if you are passionate about something, then you’re more willing to take risks.” Captain Alexander’s eleven-year tenure with Delta helped him create a passion project from something he did every day. Excited, he shared the idea with the company for which he worked. However, the results were something he couldn’t imagine. When we have an idea, it will set our world on fire because it’s new and fresh, and we want to contribute to the world. However, when our picture is taken and used to further someone else’s bottom line, it can take an emotional toll and stifle any creative process. During the lawsuit, Captain Alexander, working at Delta, shows the strong moral character that suggests his allegations are correct. Hopefully, this will play out as a David and Goliath battle. Nonetheless, one of the things that are lacking right now is integrity in the corporate world.

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