The CEO of Delta Air Lines on Friday declared his company’s “values are not for sale” after Georgia lawmakers retaliated against the airline for cutting ties with the National Rifle Association in the wake of last month’s Florida school shooting.
Ed Bastian, who heads the Atlanta-based airline, said in a lengthy statement to employees on Friday that Delta ended discounts for NRA members because the benefit “could be seen as Delta implicitly endorsing the NRA.” He added: “That is not the case.”
Bastian explained the decision to employees a day after Georgia lawmakers passed a tax bill that effectively punishes the airline for rescinding the discount for NRA members to travel to the group’s annual meeting. Delta is among numerous companies, including banks, insurance providers and rental car companies, that moved to end deals with the NRA after the gun group’s furious response to demands for stronger laws after the Feb. 14 massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Delta’s announcement met with harsh criticism from Republican lawmakers in Georgia, including Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who was among those who pushed an amendment to a pending tax bill to eliminate a tax break on jet fuel. The state House and Senate both passed the measure on Thursday.
“While Delta’s intent was to remain neutral, some elected officials in Georgia tied our decision to a pending jet fuel tax exemption, threatening to eliminate it unless we reversed course,” Bastian wrote. “Our decision was not made for economic gain and our values are not for sale.”
The CEO noted that Delta is also in the process of ending discounts “for any group of a politically divisive nature.”
Read Bastian’s full statement below:
This week, you have likely seen Delta in coverage of the national debate over gun control and security in U.S. schools. I want to take the opportunity to update you on how we got here and where we stand.
On Saturday, Delta rescinded a one-time group travel discount for the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting, and asked the organization to remove our name and logo from their website. This decision followed the NRA’s controversial statements after the recent school shootings in Florida. Our discounted travel benefit for NRA members could be seen as Delta implicitly endorsing the NRA. That is not the case.
I have heard from many of you over the last few days. Our people and our customers have a wide range of views on how to increase safety in our schools and public places, and we are not taking sides. Our objective in removing any implied affiliation with the NRA was to remove Delta from this debate.
While Delta’s intent was to remain neutral, some elected officials in Georgia tied our decision to a pending jet fuel tax exemption, threatening to eliminate it unless we reversed course. Our decision was not made for economic gain and our values are not for sale. We are in the process of a review to end group discounts for any group of a politically divisive nature.
None of this changes the fact that our home is Atlanta and we are proud and honored to locate our headquarters here. And we are supporters of the 2nd Amendment, just as we embrace the entire Constitution of the United States.
I have tremendous respect and admiration for Governor Nathan Deal, and thank him for the work he has done on the jet fuel tax exemption. He is a great friend to Delta. I know this action by the state legislature troubled him as it does all of us.
I know it is not comfortable to be caught in a highly emotional debate, and many of you have received questions from customers. We are at our best when we bring our customers and our world closer together. Hopefully, our decisions this week will serve this ultimate cause.
I want to thank every one of you for your professionalism and continued focus on taking care of our customers every day.