The Spirit of Delta

Delta family takes fresh inspiration from 40th birthday of famed Spirit of Delta 767 aircraft

Dec. 15 marks an important day for Delta people: It’s the day in 1982 the airline purchased its first 767, dubbed “The Spirit of Delta,” financed entirely by employees in a grassroots effort to move the company forward.

Today, it will take on new significance as Delta launches a fundraising campaign to ensure the long-term health of its employee assistance fund, known as the Delta Care Fund. The Spirit of Giving campaign sets a goal of raising $30 million for the Care Fund.

At an event honoring the Spirit of Delta and announcing the new fundraising campaign, Ed personally committed to contributing $300,000 and challenged all Delta people – employees, retirees, partners, and suppliers – to join and help the company reach 100% participation.

“Our work is rooted in service. It’s that drive to serve Delta and each other that has guided our company since its inception. As we celebrate the 40-year anniversary of Spirit of Delta, we want to continue the legacy with a new endeavor by revitalizing the Delta Care Fund and ensuring it’s there to serve Delta people for years to come,” said Delta CEO Ed Bastian.

The significance of Dec. 15 begins in 1982, when Delta was among many airlines facing economic trouble. And yet, the company decided to give employees a raise. When seeing a news outlet refer to this decision as “ill advised,” flight attendants Diane Carvelli, Virginia (Ginny) Oxford, and Jean Owens felt it was important that they defend Delta. And how? By purchasing a 767.

“We were amazed at how many people volunteered. Delta people are special folks. Every department, every place—when they work together, they can do pretty wonderful things,” said Carvelli. In just three months, the Spirit of Delta was purchased with money raised by Delta people.

The Spirit of Delta is still with us today, living in the Delta Flight Museum. In the early 2000s, former CEO Jerry Grinstein worked tirelessly to save the jet — which had become a symbol of the resiliency and care of Delta people. This was just one of the many critical decisions made by Grinstein, another being his help in creating the Delta Care Fund.

At the end of his tenure, Grinstein was awarded reimbursement after years of not collecting a salary during Delta’s bankruptcy battle. He declined to accept the funds and instead donated them to create the Delta Care Fund.

“I imagined the Delta Care Fund would help people bridge the gap if they were suffering a major setback. It wasn’t clear that it would continue to collect contributions—that piece of it was bigger than I anticipated,” Grinstein said in a recent interview.

Today, the Care Fund is 501(c)(3) charitable organization that helps Delta people through many unforeseen hardships: accidents, injury, illness, death, domestic violence or natural disasters. Since its inception, the Care Fund has given more than $31 million in grants to Delta employees, retirees and survivors. This year, the Care Fund has already served almost 1,300 employees and remains a prime example of Delta people helping Delta people.

In October, Delta kicked off the giving with a $500,000 contribution to the Fund in honor of retirees, particularly those who departed during the COVID pandemic.

Stay tuned for more information about the Spirit of Giving campaign, coming soon. In the meantime, for more information or to donate, please visit

Image: © Delta