A Delta passenger shared online that their rainbow luggage tag was defaced with the word ‘sodomite’.
Someone at Delta Air Lines baggage handling took it upon themselves to write “sodomite” on my 🌈 luggage tag. Bigotry, hate speech and destruction of personal property while in @Delta airline’s care. I want this shared and on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community- I will not go quietly. pic.twitter.com/BzbG4n0jas
— Renee Gerrish (@recklessrita) September 12, 2019
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The antipathy of many liberals towards corporations seems outdated.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.