Delta Airlines, which recently reported its first annual loss in 36 years, has not announced layoffs, canceled orders for new jets or imposed other remedies common to financially troubled airlines.

Instead, the company's executives are going to pay the price--at least some of it.

Delta has decided to cut salaries of executives and board members by an undisclosed amount in what a spokesman called a "symbolic gesture" in the wake of the loss.

"We want to demonstrate . . . that we're going a little further, and we want to bite the bullet with some pay concessions," said a spokesman for the Atlanta-based airline, which last year was one of the few major carriers to operate in the black.

Delta is not being totally symbolic, however. The airline already has reduced its dividend to shareholders to 15 cents a share from 25 cents, postponed delivery of five Boeing 767 jets and sold a group of surplus 727s.

But the spokesman said the airline had decided not to make sweeping cuts so that it would be poised to take advantage of a recovery in the airline industry. He said Delta believed that by keeping its employment and equipment rosters intact, it can repeat the success it had after the economic downturn of the early 1970s, when it followed a similar philosophy.

"We kept the trained personnel, and we really moved in and took some market share" when the economy improved, he recalled.

The spokesman emphasized that while companies such as Chrysler Corp. and International Harvester have cut executive salaries when they ran into financial hard times, Delta is by no means in a tailspin.

"The company has not done anything that would indicate that you've got a troubled company," the spokesman said. "We could have delayed one or two airplane deliveries and eliminated that $86 million loss . . . but we didn't do that."

And he said the company was not in such trouble that it would need to be "asking for concessions or salary reductions. There's no reason to believe that we're going to do that."

The salary cuts affect 46 executives. In addition, Delta's 17 directors agreed to take a cut in the compensation they receive for attending board meetings.

Symbolic gestures are nothing new at Delta. Last winter, employes gave something to management--a $30 million Boeing 767 bought with voluntary contributions from employes, retirees and suppliers.