Could Coke no longer be it for Delta?


Could Coca-Cola Co. no longer be it for Delta Air Lines Inc.?

Unthinkable as it might seem, the pairing of two of Atlanta’s greatest companies is up in the air.

Atlanta-based Delta hasn’t decided if it will keep hometown Coke as its beverage provider once the carrier’s operations are fully combined with merger partner Northwest Airlines Corp., Delta officials confirmed Friday.

No other companies immediately bring the city of Atlanta to mind as strongly as the world’s largest airline and the world’s biggest drink maker.

Coke and Delta have been partners for nearly 77 years. In 2002, the two great Atlanta companies inked an eight-year contract extension and Delta even convinced its SkyTeam partners to ditch PepsiCo Inc. for Coke.

The two Fortune 500 companies are also long-time philanthropic powers in the city.

But, Eagan, Minn.-based Northwest, which Delta acquired last October, serves Pepsi drinks. It isn’t clear whether Delta CEO Richard Anderson, a former top dog at Northwest, prefers one soft drink over the other.

“Delta has not yet made this decision,” Delta spokeswoman Susan Chana Elliott said. “Northwest contracted with Pepsi, while Delta contracted with Coca-Cola. We will make a decision on the future of our beverage strategy in the next several months.”

Coke officials declined comment.

In a Friday memo, Delta announced several transitional steps as it merges its operations with Northwest.

For now, Northwest planes will continue to serve Pepsi products, while Delta flights will serve Coke beverages.

Tim Mapes, Delta senior vice president of marketing, hinted to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal, that the new Delta would be a free agent.

“These are two great companies with phenomenal product portfolios. You’ll hear an announcement when we’re pleased with the terms of [a deal],” Mapes said.