Georgia Punishes Delta Over a Total of 13 NRA Travelers


With a society so awash in guns and gun–lobby money, someone was bound to shoot themselves in the foot eventually.

In one fell swoop, Republican lawmakers in Georgia, whose state seal extols “wisdom, justice, and moderation,” revealed their hypocrisy on corporate culture, their disregard for the victims of the Parkland school shooting, and a willingness to take on a major airline over a grand total of 13 NRA members.

On Friday, the day the state’s Republican governor, Nathan Deal, quietly signed into law a tax–relief bill that eliminated some $50 million in jet–fuel tax exemptions for Delta and other airlines, USA Today reported that only 13 passengers had signed up for a one–time travel discount for NRA members that was at the heart of the controversy.

Following the Florida school shooting last month, Delta joined over a dozen companies in announcing an end to a corporate discount program offered to members of the National Rifle Association. For Delta, that entailed halting a one–time travel discount for the NRA’s upcoming annual meeting in Dallas in May. Delta also asked the NRA to remove the airline’s logo from the group’s website.

The state’s Republican lawmakers responding with fury. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle tweeted that he would “kill any tax legislation that benefits @Delta unless the company changes its position and fully reinstates its relationship with @NRA.”

Delta didn’t back down, and why would it, considering we’re talking about only 13 customers? So, state lawmakers moved forward by passing a tax–relief bill that eliminated the jet–fuel tax breaks for airlines. The bill passed Georgia’s House by a vote of 135–24, and its Senate by 44–10.

As USA Today noted, this breaks down to a loss in tax breaks of $3 million per passenger on a one–time travel discount.

On Friday, the day the governor—who actually supports Delta and wants it to remain in the state—signed the bill into law, Delta CEO Ed Bastian circulated a memo among employees explaining the company’s decision.

“Our discounted travel benefit for NRA members could be seen as Delta implicitly endorsing the NRA. That is not the case,” Bastian wrote. “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 spaces, and we are not taking sides.”

Delta’s pulling out of its meaningless deal with the NRA was to “remove Delta from this debate,” Bastian said. He added: “Our decision was not made for economic gain and our values are not for sale.”

Bastian said the airline is in the process of reviewing and ending group discounts “for any group of a politically divisive nature,” although it’s not clear what that means.

Meanwhile, officials in other states have been furiously tweeting at Delta in an attempt to woo the company away from Georgia.

“.@Delta, our offer still stands. Ed Bastian, give me a call,” tweeted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“.@Delta is always welcome in Los Angeles,” LA Mayor Eric Garcetti added.

But despite the efforts to entice the airline, and given Bastian and Deal’s close relationship, it’s unlikely Delta is going anywhere for now.

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