Delta CEO Ed Bastian on Friday sent a letter to the airlines’ employees, explaining the company’s decision last week to end the discount it provided to National Rifle Association members in the wake of the Florida school shooting. The decision riled Republican lawmakers in Delta’s home state of Georgia to the point that the state senate on Thursday approved a tax bill that did not include an expected tax break for airlines. Delta’s headquarters are in Atlanta.
The tiff between the airline and the state government prompted speculation that Delta may relocate its HQ as Democratic leaders from other states appealed to the airline. But in his letter Friday, Bastian assured Delta workers that it plans to stay put. He also said Delta supports the 2nd Amendment but is committed to ending group discounts for “politically divisive” groups.
Here is his letter in full:
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On Saturday, Delta rescinded a one-time group travel discount for the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting, and asked the organization to remove our name and logo from their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.