In a memo sent to employees this morning, Delta CEO Ed Bastian sought to clarify that the airline’s decision to end a popular discount program with the National Rifle Association was to remain neutral in the debate, rather pick a side.
“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,” Bastian wrote.
Delta had come under fire for its decision to end its relationship with the gun-rights group. In addition to ending the discount program, the airline also asked the NRA to remove its name and logo from their website, ending even signs of even an implied relationship with the organization.
The move prompted lawmakers in Georgia, Delta’s home, to strip a tax provision from a larger bill that would have benefitted Delta. The tax exemption, an elimination of the state’s jet fuel tax, was estimated to save Delta $50 million. Lawmakers said the move was in direct retaliation for the airline’s decision to end its relationship with the gun-advocacy group.
“Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back,” Lt. Governor Casey Cagle wrote on Twitter in the wake of Delta’s announcement.
Several companies, including Hertz, Avis, Symantec, as well as Delta, have initiated a boycott of the NRA in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Parkland, FL, that left seventeen, mostly students, dead last month.
The NRA has called the boycott shameful. “Let it be absolutely clear. The loss of a discount will neither scare nor distract one single NRA member from our mission to stand and defend the individual freedoms that have always made America the greatest nation in the world,” the group said in a recent statement.
Delta attempted to work with lawmakers in the Georgia state House who remain supportive of the airline to mend the break, but both sides were unable to repair the fissure. The tax cut was part of a larger $5 billion tax cut package that was wildly popular in Atlanta.
The state Senate voted 44-10 to approve the bill yesterday. A state House version passed earlier by a vote of 135-24.
Bastian, in his memo, a copy of which was mailed to ITN, said the company stood by his decision and expressed optimism that ultimately it will be seen as the right decision for the company to make.
“We are in the process of a review to end group discounts for any group of a politically divisive nature,” Bastion wrote. “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.”