Delta Faces Backlash After Multiple Employees Spotted With Palestine Flag Pins

A reader shared a complaint sent to Delta about a gate agent in Detroit working a flight to Atlanta who was wearing a Palestine flag pin on Wednesday.

As you know, Palestine is neither a country nor is recognized by the United States as a state.

The wearing of a Palestinian flag pin is at best political and at worst hate speech. It is seen by many Delta customers as a symbol supporting anti-Semitisim and the eradication and genocide of the Jewish people.

Just as Delta surely wouldn’t allow staff to wear a Nazi symbol or other overly political symbols on uniforms, staff should not be allowed to wear something that is unquestionably anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli.

Spain, Ireland and Norway now recognize a Palestinian State. The Catalan independence movement would like a word with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

The Biden administration backing off of support for Israel is largely a function of Michigan being a battleground state, and concerns of Muslim voters staying home. Delta has a hub in Detroit, and the city’s Dearborn suburb has the largest Muslim concentration and largest mosque in North America.

Earlier this month a Delta employee at Washington Reagan National was spotted with a Palestine pin as well.

It is possible to wear a Palestinian flag and believe you’re advocating for two states. That isn’t usually what it means. One wears the pin to represent that “from the river to the sea” that Jews will be cleansed from Israel, and the land will belong to Palestinians. At a minimum the frequency with which this message is attached to the symbol means it’s likely to be understood this way.

After JetBlue called the cops and banned a Jewish passenger who complained about a flight attendant wearing a Palestine pin, the airline updated its uniform policy to ban pins they have not approved.

Delta, on the other hand, did not speak out about their employee’s Palestine pin earlier this month when it gained attention. As with President Biden, the airline might have a problem with an important local constituency if it were to do so. JetBlue faces less of a problem with concentrations in New York, Boston, South Florida and the Caribbean.

I strongly support free speech, but companies are entitled to enforce limits at work locations and by employees during work hours. There’s a real concern with front line airline employees voicing political positions and aiming those at passengers. The issue is asymmetric speech. Gate agents have passengers removed from flights all the time based on their own judgment. A passenger expressing a contrary opinion would easily be deemed as disruptive. The power here is entirely with the employee taking a position that’s threatening to some of Delta’s customers.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. While the company has a right to protect its brand image and forbid this type of “offensive” pin, the mere fact of wearing it is not “hate speech”. It’s NOT speech.

  2. Or perhaps they are just sickened by Israel’s genocide and supporting the killing of innocents including tens of thousands of children and women? Something as a father you should consider vs always having an angle when it comes to posting rubbish against what’s happening and why folks are wearing Palestine’s flag or protesting.

  3. Win, it’s not speech? I suspect the Justices in Tinker v. Des Moines might disagree with you.

  4. What is surprising about this?
    Detroit & Minneapolis are 2 of Delta’s hub cities. There are tens of thousands of Palestinian & Somali refugees in both Cities. 2 squad members, Tlaib & Omar represent them in Congress.

    When Joe Biden talks about his 2 state solution in 2024, he means Michigan & Minnesota.

    You compain about this; you are racist or Islamophobic… Or a Democrat reading the writing on the wall with all of the None of the above Dem voters.

    Delta is going to have a big problem sorting this out. Not to mention how their Jewish & Israel supporting flyers feel. But we don’t seem to matter in 2024..

  5. Any individual pin, flag, ribbon, etc is potentially controversial. Does wearing the Israeli flag pin elicit the same concern (support of the ethnic cleansing of the occupied territories)? Does wearing a blue uniform signify that, besides being a Delta employee you are a Crip? Might be simpler if we just got rid of political and religious symbols at work and in the public sphere.

  6. Anyone who thinks a Palestine flag is hate speech is uninformed at best and intentionally creating propaganda at worst. Likening the flag of an oppressed people to a symbol used to oppress people is part of the heinous propaganda machine that got us into the current mess in the first place. And it’s shameful that you (Gary) are claiming that those with a Palestine flag pin are advocating for “cleansing” Jews from the land, which seems like you’re intentionally being untrue here to make things more difficult. No one is advocating for a new genocide of Jews–only those who want to continue Israel’s genocide are saying that’s the argument so they can distract from their own destructive plans. Do better. Honesty and truth-telling matter.

  7. “I strongly support free speech, but” but but but but….

    Yeah, sure, that’s what they all say.

  8. @Christian … +1 . The same as we used to do . In fact , it has always been better to NEVER discuss our manager’s stupidity , religious superiority , ethnic food smells , racial stereotypes , bad breath , body odor , or nascar at work . In my military experience , the safest topic was who could drink the most alcohol beverage in a half-hour , and then have a competition to decide the winner .

  9. Frankly, I find the ubiquitous American flag pins way more offensive. They are worn most often by blowhard politicians who after 9/11 wanted to show “support for the troops”. But if you look at their actions, they clearly do not, they only support the defense industry.

    I would think that a flag of a beleaguered nation whose humans need all the support they can get would be less offensive. But clearly some people haven’t learned a lesson in humanity.

    Also, if you can’t see past a Palestinian flag in Michigan, I got bad news for you.

  10. This is a simple one. Nothing…repeat nothing…should be worn or ever discussed while you are representing the company other than that which is already approved by the company. (i.e. Delta Wing pin; etc.)

    You have personal time and a personal life for that. I don’t care what side you’re on or who think is right/wrong. NOTHING while you are representing the company.

    At the end of the day, those of us without contracts (and even those with contracts) are ‘at-will’ employees. Don’t like it? Nothing and no one is forcing you to work there.

  11. @Christian + Alert:
    Agreed. Anywhere I’ve worked has had guidelines for what pins one may wear, whether uniform or not. Meaning only company issued/approved and a union logo pin if applicable. We had small buttons for pride month or Black history or pink for October, etc. Outside of that, it just opens the door for anything and then that becomes a potential HR or discrimination issue if you’ve got to tell one person they are being offensive but another is not. Easier to just say No.

    I’ve only ever worn my seniority pin (and the company issued pink lanyard in October) and the pin signifying I received the President’s Award (which is only the company logo with a diamond, pretty much identical to seniority pin except in gold).

    On a United flight this weekend two of the flight attendants had Palestinian flag pins. I don’t think they were Palestinian (speaking Spanish with last names that are very common in central America). But we were going to Colorado so nobody had an issue.

  12. does delta have an employee flair policy?

    does any airline have an employee flair policy?

    if not, they should

  13. @Jay – free speech under the first amendment is a protection from government, not the right to do as you wish on your employer’s dime

  14. @Ryan – Calling Israel’s military campaign genocide dumbs down that term, “deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group.”

    Israel has killed many terrorists and civilians both. That is a tragedy. And it is a tragedy *because of Hamas* which hides amongst Palestinians and uses them as human shields.

    There are reasonable arguments over the specific military strategy that is being employed, but calling it genocide simply fails to understand what that means. The Palestinian population has grown mightily since 1967.

    And while it is POSSIBLE for someone to intend merely to support the creation of a Palestinian state – something that has been offered over and over and rejected by Palestinian Arabs from 1947 onwards – that’s often not what the wearer intends and certainly not how it is frequently perceived (which wearers are well aware of, either intending to communicate that or not caring).

  15. I had naively assumed that these flag pins were helpful as crew bi-lingual ability or as airline destination promotion. Otherwise, for a taxpayer-subsidized public corporation, all these non-corporate-uniform embellishments should be banned.

  16. @Ryan – “No one is advocating for a new genocide of Jews…”

    Hamas and many Muslim groups do advocate for a new genocide of Jews. Why don’t you believe them? Maybe you agree with them? Hmmmm?

  17. @Ryan “Anyone who thinks a Palestine flag is hate speech is uninformed at best and intentionally creating propaganda at worst. Likening the flag of an oppressed people to a symbol used to oppress people is part of the heinous propaganda machine that got us into the current mess in the first place. And it’s shameful that you (Gary) are claiming that those with a Palestine flag pin are advocating for “cleansing” Jews from the land”

    Hamas, is very literally calling for cleansing Jews from the land. Hamas was ELECTED by Gazans. In a sea of gray with the horror of what is going on….those facts seem….clear.

  18. @Kchoya

    Don’t quit your day job as your legal career isn’t very promising. Tinker was about expression at public schools, which has no relevance for a private company’s rules for their own employees.

    Delta is of course free to choose a side, or to take no side, and insist that it’s employees do the same. If I were Delta management I would certainly not want my employees antagonizing the many passengers – particularly Jewish passengers – who associate superfluous wearing of the Palestinian Flag with support for the the rapes, murders, and ongoing kidnapping of innocent civilians committed on 10/7 and a signal that the wearer wants to see it again and again . . . that’s likely bad for business (and certainly bad for attracting my business).

  19. Wear Israeli and Palestinian flag pins side by side. Support Israel’s right to exist in peace and Palestinians’ right to not be subjugated and butchered.

  20. @C_M what people like Ryan mean is, calling for and taking in part Genocide against Jewish people is OK, and when hundreds of missiles targeting civilians are shot all over Israel every day, that’s OK. But when Israel tries to defend itself, HOW DARE JEWS NOT DIE QUIETLY! How dare Jews cause even one civilian death, when every war in history had way more civilian casualties (even without Hamas hiding behind human shields) and the Arabs in Syria have killed more Arabs that every war with Israel combined (and no one said boo!) But you are forgetting their “truth”, Palestinians want peace and Israel wants genocide… with people like Ryan, there is no one home to even try to use any intellect….

  21. 20,000 French civilians died largely due to Allied bombing during the Battle of Normandy. Half a million, and perhaps more than a million, died in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11.

    This is war, it is a tragedy, and it is also because of Hamas.

    What you need to state is what reaction you expect Israel to have, if it has the right to exist, besides eradicating terrorists who enter its territory and rape and murder and whose compatriots fire missiles at its people? And when Hamas hides amongst the Palestinian people? Seriously, lay out what response would be both reasonable and possible given the politics and if you’re an American think of U.S. politics following 9/11 when considering your answer.

  22. Mak – your reading comprehension is very poor. I hope your job doesn’t entail the use of that skill.

    Read my post again. The original poster said a pin is not speech. I pointed out that Tinker said an armband is speech, therefore.a pin is speech. I made no argument that the Delta employees have a First Amendment right to wear the pin.

    Next time, try less snark and more actual thought before you post.

  23. The initial reaction by Israel from the Hamas raid was warranted. Defend your land and show them they f’d around and found out what their actions will result in. But you are incredibly naive if you think these “accidental” bombings and attacks on civilians that keep on happening in Palestine is just an accident. Both sides have their issues. There’s no supporting either.

  24. In 3 days, many people will swap out their Palestinian pins/flags/attire for Pride ones.

    And the irony will be lost on all of them.

  25. I do not know the right “reaction” Israel should have to the atrocious actions of the scum sucking Hamas on 10/7, and the continuous and unjust assaults it has faced throughout its history and today, and you don’t really know either @Gary. I do know that killing 30k+, wounding 70k+, and basically starving every other Gazan is not the answer. Nor was killing 1M+ Iraqi and Afghan civilians the answer to 9/11. Perhaps a “war” with Iran might’ve been more “just,” or at least a fairer fight.

  26. Popcorn time:)

    P.S – I think Biden is very likely going to lose Michigan. He should have just stuck with supporting the jews and Israel, but instead he’s pandering to the Arabs, and at the end he’s going to both go down in history as abandoning the Jewish people in time of evil, and also lose the election.

  27. Palestine is recognized as a state by well over 100 countries. And whether or not it’s seen as premature by many, even Herzl himself would talk of Palestine as Palestine decades before Israel was recognized as a sovereign nation-state by the world community.

    Israel’s ethnic cleaning strategy toward Palestinians under Netanyahu’s rule has ironically grown the list of countries recognizing Palestinian nation-statehood and it has understandably also grown the number of people globally who care about what has happened to Palestinians in the weeks and months since Hamas’s barbarous attack on October 7th was followed by a barbaric, truly Machiavellian response by the Israeli regime.

    Israel today is in a pickle of its own making and has ended up pursuing an ethnic cleansing strategy because ethnic cleansing is the way for “Greater Israel” to both:

    1) eliminate Hamas (and inappropriately-named “Islamic Jihad”) and such successor from being a thorn “within” for Israelis; and

    2) avoid ending up remaining or becoming an apartheid state, a state whereby the trappings of democracy and equal civil rights are excluded for a substantial proportion of people under the state’s rule for the indefinite future.

    This ethnic cleansing strategy is the way to consolidate Israel being a democratic Jewish state, and Netanyahu and his strategy supporters know just that and thus are rallying near and far to generate cover to do just that. If people aren’t willing to support a two-state solution on the lands Netanyahu sees as “Greater Israel”, then they are either supporting an ethnic cleansing strategy or are apathetic to the suffering of “the other”. We can all be better than that.

    … and, yes, Hamas should surrender and return all the hostages from October 7th and should hav done so long ago. But Netanyahu doesn’t want that. Netanyahu wants several more months to move ahead the ethnic cleansing strategy so as to secure the future of an overwhelming Jewish majority across all of what he sees as “Greater Israel”.

  28. Why would any company, want to upset any customer, like in politics, why piss off 50% of your customers. Having had a company, never let any employee, put on a bumper sticker, just dumb.

  29. There is no such thing as free speech in the workplace. Delta, and others should ban anything outside of their company approved work ware. People are surprised to learn that the Constitution free speech is reserved to those interacting with the Government, not private employers. As long as the restriction applies to all, there is no discrimination.

  30. Let’s see how soon Delta puts in place a JetBlue type revised pin policy for its employees. I would hope they don’t revise the policy, but I expect that Delta will revise the pin policy due to a pressure campaign.

  31. Dude26 doesn’t seem to get that Biden’s been awful at pandering. But awful in a way Dude26 doesn’t understand. Biden panders primarily to the “Israel can do no/little wrong” crowd and yet gets called out as being “bad for Israel” despite giving Israel unprecedented levels of support from the US. Biden fails to pander in any meaningful way to the Arab and Muslim American crowds, but Biden does try to pander to the majority of other Democrats and independents who don’t want the country’s president to support ethnic cleansing but may be willing to buy the myth that “Biden cares about everyone” with some otherwise meaningless talk and gestures about caring about the massive amounts of brutalized Palestinians all these months.

  32. The issue isn’t Palestine. As a retired employer and executive, when at work, employees represent the company, it’s brand, and image. If an employer allows any employees to wear symbols not part of their brand, they must allow all employees to wear symbols regardless of how contreversial. Herein lies the corporate dilemma.

    For all customers to feel welcomed, then non-business attire should not be permitted. If a company chooses to allow representation of a specific social, political, or other non-business represntation, then they have to bear the consequences, which include loss of business and lawsuits by employees and/or the public.

  33. Supporting humane treatment for Palestinians does Not mean you support Hamas, or support terrorists. The hostages must be reunited with their families.

    It is possible to support the Palestinians and support Israel at the same time.

    Supporting Israel also does not mean supporting illegal settlement activities.

    There is no such thing as blind support. Peaceful support means ending terrorism and never giving up on the prospect of peace.

  34. As a small business owner businessman or for that matter just businesses in general. Here is my mindset on things whether political or not.
    The employee(s) are typically what consumers perceive and deal with first.
    The employee(s) work for the company-on-company time and receive a paycheck. They are not there to show or push anything but do the best job they can do for the company. After they are off company time and on their own/personal time they can do, show, push whatever they believe in.
    Businesses are entitled to set and enforce work rules to protect their brand/name.
    If employee(s) don’t like the rules at their employer, then it’s simple. Start your own company or resign/quit the company.

  35. If your travels take you to Michigan, please consider a premium Delta flight into DTW.

  36. “That isn’t usually what it means”. Oh boy, this copy and paste line from your previous articles? How lazy.

  37. @ Dave Flaat — So you seriously think that the Biden admin is pro-Palestinian? Then why do all of the Palestinian hate him? That is the problem with this whole mess, no matter what position you take, you can’t win. It is absurd. ENOUGH.

  38. For an airline uniform, only those who speak Arabic should wear the pin. If they speak Hebrew, they can wear an Israeli pin.

  39. Imagine the tolerance the left would display towards someone who wore an Israeli flag pin.

  40. The Palestinian flag is hate speech? Are you dumb? Seriously, how out of touch are you? I will now go out of my way to wear a Palestinian flag pin.

  41. Gary, as a fellow Jew who respects you, I urge you to reconsider your perspective. Your association between the Palestinian flag and the elimination of Israel is contrived and reflective of your own bias. I’m a Jew — and a proud one — and yet I both despise Israel’s actions in the conflict and support statehood for Palestine. I would happily wear a flag pin in support of the innocents killed and starved in the land that should be recognized as a state by all.

  42. Follow the money. Take it up with the puppet master, not their puppet. Take it up with Iran.

  43. @gary tell us why 500 unarmed Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank this year where there is no Hamas. Tell us about the 400 Palestinian homes in the West Bank that have been demolished by Israel. tell us about the largest land grab in decades that happened on March 22nd, 2024. Tell us about the settlers in the West Bank who are terrorizing Palestinian men, women, and children in the West Bank where Hamas is not in charge
    Whose human shield are they ?

  44. Gary will of course his favoured right whingers talking points but Gary won’t mention how Israel supported Hamas, and killed over 2000 Palestinian children over the last years. As long as Gary’s daughter is safely ensconced in a blue leaning city, Gary doesn’t care

  45. When believing in the existence of a Palestinian people and a two state solution is labeled “anti-Semitic”, what is the implication? The goalposts have moved to the point where the public believes this people’s full extermination is the only politically correct expression? This is insanity. Check your hate

  46. OUTRAGE, particularly when the facts are triggering and don’t fit your personal agenda.

  47. Easy fix. No pins. None. No Palestinian flags, no sports teams, no Black Lives Matter, no White Lives Matter, no Pride flags, not even American flags. A uniform is not where you exercise your right to free speech. Uniform: from the Latin uniformis (having one form). Everyone should be dressed the same with no flair. It’s not a TGI Fridays in 1985.

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