Delta fires back at angry lawmakers amid NRA backlash: ‘Our values are not for sale’

  • In a memo to employees on Friday, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian defended his company’s decision to cut ties with the National Rifle Association.
  • Delta has since faced backlash from some customers and Georgia lawmakers, who on Thursday passed a tax bill that did not include a provision to exempt Delta from paying sales tax on jet fuel.
  • Bastian said the company’s decision to end its relationship with the NRA was not made for “economic gain” and that its “values are not for sale.”
  • Bastian also said the airline was committed to its headquarters in Atlanta.

In a memo to employees on Friday, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian defended his company’s decision to cut ties with the National Rifle Association and signaled it could end more politically divisive partnerships.

Since ending its relationship with the NRA last weekend, the airline has faced backlash from some customers and lawmakers.

On Thursday, the Georgia legislature passed a tax bill that excluded a provision to exempt airlines from paying sales tax on jet fuel. The state’s Republican governor, Nathan Deal, has said he will sign it into law.

Delta, one of Georgia’s largest employers, could lose out on up to $40 million in tax breaks as a result. But Bastian said in the memo that the company stood by its decision and was committed to Atlanta as the location of its headquarters.

“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 said.

“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.”

Read Bastian’s full statement:

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On Saturday, Delta rescinded a one-time group travel discount for the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting, and asked the organization to remove our name and logo from their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.