Delta Passenger’s Luggage Tag Vandalized With Slur – Underscores How Progressive the Airline Really Is

A Delta passenger shared online that their rainbow luggage tag was defaced with the word ‘sodomite’.

If a baggage handler at the airline actually did it, that’s certainly not something Delta is ok with,

As a global carrier with a diverse workforce and customer base, we are committed to respecting and treating all passengers equally.

Two years ago a Southwest Airlines baggage handler vandalized a CNN crew’s luggage with ‘Fake News’ and ‘Clinton News’.

Delta has over 80,000 employees, Southwest has around 60,000. There will always be outliers among them who act contrary to the values and best interests of their employer. The relevant question is whether the behavior comes out of the corporate culture, and in both cases clearly not.

I think that taking a stand on social issues comes across as inauthentic for many brands. A brand purpose isn’t the same as a social cause, and for Delta the most authentic brand purpose is helping business travelers be productive and efficient.

However Delta CEO Ed Bastian says that “taking a stand has become part of the job.” For him that meant coming out against the NRA, though they walked back their political stance amidst criticism before doubling down by chartering planes to send kids to protest guns.

The antipathy of many liberals towards corporations seems outdated. As my colleague Tyler Cowen observes companies are often far out ahead of governments promoting progressive values. Delta celebrated the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision and supported benefits for same sex partners even before Obergefell v. Hodges.

At worst, Delta and other corporations are like Claude Raines in Casablanca following the prevailing winds.

Even the controversy over whether to ban Chik-fil-A from airports in more liberal jurisdictions stems not from store policies or employee behaviors but donations to non-profit organizations. Even where the beliefs of leadership of a major company conflict with dominant values, the policies and behaviors of those companies toe a mainstream line out of self-interest.

Unless Delta has proof that the passenger vandalized their own baggage tag, they should apologize. But none of us should think that the slur represents the company’s values, and indeed a majority of corporate interests are usually best-served by espousing progressive values.

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. @Skaner

    Very true… And not all airport employees are airline employees… regional airports are contracted out in a lot of cases…

  2. Why are some people so interested in what other people do with those they are intimate with?

    If the responsible party here is a Delta employee, the company could show that they genuinely care about their staff by ensuring the person gets professional psychiatric help.

  3. Can’t discount that the passenger may have done this themselves knowing that the media would jump all over it.

  4. Gary said: “majority of corporate interests are usually best-served by espousing progressive values”. I think we should discuss Gary’s conclusion.

  5. Gary,

    You are sad…the accuser should provide the proof not the other way around.

    1) it says something but sodomite is does not.
    2) the bag tag and are not presented together, why not?

    You should be ashamed of spreading this garbage.


  6. It’s funny how Gary says if Delta doesn’t have proof that the passenger damaged their own bag, they should apologize. So I guess we are just to believe what this person says automatically without investigation. Like others have stated, TSA or anyone else could have done this including the alleged victim. Just Gary being reckless again.

  7. Anyone could have written this including the alleged “victim” which is often the case unless video evidence proves who did it. What upsets me is the media is more concerned about words written on a luggage tag but ignores black on white violence which has plagued our cities and towns whether in Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, Nassau, or South Africa. Some people are more concerned about words than actual violence which is disproportionately committed by a couple of groups.

  8. Just be glad someone didn’t write “NRA” on your tag. Then if you landed in San Francisco you would be investigated for terrorism.

  9. @Texasoilfields – on the contrary see my conclusion, they should apologize as long as they can’t prove they didn’t do it, but this says nothing about their culture.

  10. @Other Just Saying – conservatives should like my conclusion, which is that it’s misguided to be more critical of business than government..

  11. Likely to have been done by a religious nutter as it’s doubtful that a common/garden redneck would know the meaning of sodomite, let alone be able to spell it.( maybe a graduate of one of those Chik-Fil-a-funded religious hate courses)

  12. Gary, Delta should appologize unless they can prove they did not do it? While I’m no fan of Delta, I am a fan of the term innocent until proven guilty.

  13. Agree @woofie. Had this been AA, somehow it would have been blown way out of proportion. The same 2 or 3 stock photos of something at AA would have been used, and somehow Gary would have to fit in that DFW stands for “Doesn’t Fly Wet.” Oh, and Oasis and tiny lavs. It’s perfectly fine that you only actually use one airline to fly and do everything you can to pick apart, but don’t prop up every other airline (that you don’t use often or at all) and pretend everything they do is great. A lot of posts lately just spouting off some personal belief, which is your right as it is your blog, however, they are getting old and uninspired.

  14. If Delta apologizes, then you would write a big article bashing Delta and its employees. And if it were proven later that this person made the whole thing up, I highly doubt that you would write a follow up article stating as such. What’s really sad Gary, is that you are huge on speculation – 1 : to take to be true on the basis of insufficient evidence. There is no evidence whatsoever that a Delta employee did this. You don’t even acknowledge that most of these commenters disagree with you. I would humble myself to realize that maybe your commenters have a point.

  15. @Gary said: “conservatives should like my conclusion”. Huh? Let me get this straight conservatives should support pressure on companies to promote the left wing agenda. Does the word “coercion” mean anything to you?

  16. I’m going to say it – She is “Smolletting” us.

    It looks like she did this herself. There is no proof that anyone from TSA or Delta did this. If an employee did, there are cameras all over the place watching the bags, and the employee would get caught.

  17. Gary is correct as the common law has seen it for a few hundred years. When you pay for someone to hold your stuff they are presumed liable for whatever bad thing happens. Called a bailment. Law french i think. The concept is that the owner has no way to prove what happens after her stuff goes behind the storage company or carrier’s door. The receiverneeds a contract or (faa regulation) that says otherwise to protect from the presumption. So as a general principle gary’s approachis sensible.

  18. “Even the controversy over whether to ban Chik-fil-A from airports in more liberal jurisdictions stems not from store policies or employee behaviors but donations to non-profit organizations. Even where the beliefs of leadership of a major company conflict with dominant values, the policies and behaviors of those companies toe a mainstream line out of self-interest.”

    I agree with both of these sentences but they don’t actually belong in the same paragraph.

    Chik-fil-A’s policies and behaviors toe a Christian line (treat all customers with respect and love) because of their Christian beliefs. Their official stated purpose is ““To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.”

  19. Dave Chappelle just broke the news that this was perpetrated by French actor Juicy Smoll’e-aye.

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