ATLANTA (AP) - Delta Air Lines showed no signs Friday of backing away from a decision to cancel discounts for the National Rifle Association, despite a revenge move by state leaders that deprived the airline of a significant tax break.
Atlanta-based Delta released an internal memo CEO Ed Bastian sent to employees that insists the airline’s aim is to stay neutral in the gun debate roiling the country since last month’s deadly shooting at a Florida high school. The memo appeared roughly at the same time that GOP Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law a broad tax bill that Republican lawmakers had amended to kill a proposed tax break on jet fuel. The break would have saved Delta millions of dollars.
“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.”
Delta said the discounted fares had been available for a short time and were only for NRA members purchasing flights to the group’s 2018 convention in Dallas. Still, it triggered a showdown with pro-gun Republican lawmakers in Georgia. GOP Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle vowed to punish Delta for crossing the NRA and led the charge to eliminate the tax break on jet fuel.
Cagle, who is running for governor, defended the move against Delta on Friday, saying that although the airline is a “beloved bedrock” of Georgia’s economy, the company’s message to conservatives was: “We find your views deplorable.”
“We cannot continue to allow large companies to treat conservatives differently than other customers, employees and partners,” Cagle wrote in an opinion piece published by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution . “The voters who elected us and believe strongly in our rights and liberties expect and deserve no less.”
Deal, a term-limited Republican serving his final year, swiftly and quietly signed the tax bill, tweeting that he immediately wanted Georgia taxpayers to reap savings on their 2017 income tax returns. He made no mention of the Delta controversy.