Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines is apparently paying a huge price for ending a discount offered to National Rifle Association members. In the aftermath of the horrific Parkland, Florida, high school shooting, Delta and several other entities in corporate America have cut ties with the NRA after pressure was brought to bear on social media.
The Georgia legislature, which is controlled by the pro-gun GOP, responded by repealing a budget provision that gave Delta an airline fuel tax exemption that is valued in the range of $40-$50 million. GOP Gov. Nathan Deal signed the tax package that removed the huge Delta tax break.
According to USA Today, very few NRA members took advantage of the one-time fare discount for travel to the gun lobbying group's annual meeting that nonetheless proved very costly for Delta.
"[T]he airline said only 13 passengers ever bought tickets with an NRA discount. That translates into each discount costing the airline about $3 million in tax breaks."Many gun-control-supporting politicians, mostly Democrats, along with the social justice cohort and a vocal group of Parkland shooting survivors, have blamed the NRA and the too-easy access to the AR-15 rifle or other weapons for the lives lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14. Gun rights activists have countered that given the warnings, there were multiple failures by the FBI and the Broward County Sheriff's Department to intervene with the shooter prior to what might tragically be considered a modern-day Valentine's Day massacre. Moreover, one or more deputies on the scene stayed outside the school and failed to confront the Parkland gunman during the incident.
Others have pointed out that as a practical matter, when consumers go online to find the cheapest and most convenient flight, politics and/or any kind of marketing affiliation is the last thing on their minds. That said, there are some reports that gun owners now plan a Delta boycott.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian issued an approximately 400-word statement yesterday that indicated Delta's intent was to stay neutral and avoid taking sides in the intense debate over how to increase school safety as well as safety in other public areas.
"Our discounted travel benefit for NRA members could be seen as Delta implicitly endorsing the NRA. That is not the case...Our objective in removing any implied affiliation with the NRA was to remove Delta from this debate...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..."Bastain added that the company supports the Second Amendment and embraces the entire U.S. Constitution. The Second Amendment protects the right of the people to keep and bear firearms.
Pushing back on the neutrality argument, State Senator Michael Williams, a Republican candidate for Georgia governor, claims that Delta Air Lines funds Planned Parenthood and other "left-wing" organizations, the Washington Examiner reported. Planned Parenthood is backing the upcoming March for Our Lives gun-control rally on March 24.