Delta Walks Back Anti-NRA Stance After Pressure from Customers and Lawmakers

Delta jumped on the anti-NRA bandwagon.

Now they’re trying to walk it back. But only a little. They aren’t reversing themselves, just claiming their move doesn’t mean anything.

After they pulled the NRA group travel discount they were met with some resistance from customers and political critics.

They were also met with derision from legislators who have the power to deny subsidies that Delta wants.

So Delta’s corporate communications team came up with a particularly Orwellian interpretation of their stance against the NRA — that it isn’t one. Refusing to offer group travel discounts for the NRA is how they stay neutral in the gun debate.

Delta’s decision reflects the airline’s neutral status in the current national debate over gun control amid recent school shootings. Out of respect for our customers and employees on both sides, Delta has taken this action to refrain from entering this debate and focus on its business. Delta continues to support the 2nd Amendment.

“Staying neutral” would be offering group discounts to all qualified comers — as it is they invite groups of 10 or more and don’t ask political screening questions — not picking and choosing whom not to work with.

Delta says they “support[.] all of its customers but will not support organizations on any side of any highly charged political issue that divides our nation.”

Delta has supported the Human Rights Campaign for instance, an LGBT advocacy organization. I think that’s great, but it’s political and controversial. They’ve reportedly supported Amfar, which has been investigated for a money laundering scheme involving Harvey Weinstein.

Delta cites their recent pulling of funding from an update to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar where characters wore modern clothes and Caesar bore an apparent resemblance to Donald Trump as precedent (they don’t tout it as hypocrisy). In the play Caesar is killed — because that’s what happened — and Brutus, who did it, is rejected by the people of Rome rather than being celebrated for killing Caesar. (And in any case Mark Anthony is a closer analogue to Trump than is Caesar.)

Since it generated controversy as ‘anti-Trump’ Delta pulled funding. Delta cast their lot with President Trump thinking it would serve their protectionist ends.

The NRA was controversial so Delta separated itself. Separating itself was controversial so now they’re trying to split the baby.

Delta should have the courage of its convictions. They have a choice. Shut up in the first place. Or if they’re going to make political statements, stand by the them. This mealy mouthed stuff is just silly.

Their lobby shop is willing to spin for things that are in their own narrow self-interest, why not for their ideals?

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. people don’t make airline decisions based on what airlines do and do not sponsor. enjoy flying United, NRA members, if you feel so strongly about Delta disliking your cause a celebre because of penile securities. just don’t get dragged off the plane.

  2. Honestly, they just shouldn’t have said anything at all. Their attempts to “stay out” of the controversy just thrust them into the middle of it for no reason.

  3. They are standing in the middle of the road and this can get you run over. From a pure marketing standpoint they should have not said anything. If they felt they needed to move away from supporting any group they should just move away from that. They couldn’t help but tweet about it. They may have gained a few customers in this action but risk alienating many others by lack of loyalty or simply being perceived as foolish in general.

  4. @Ryan I *did* mention United copying Delta’s move to sever group discounts for NRA members. This post is about Delta’s mealy mouthed follow up to that decision.

  5. Seems like you might consider taking your own advice. My sense from reading this is that, like most Americans, you also find it ridiculous that we cower to the NRA and refuse to pass widely desired gun control laws. Yet you fail to say this directly. This is why the NRA wins. Have more courage Gary.

  6. Given how little choice there is in the US airline market, airlines in the US face more pressure from their shareholders than the customers. Because of this, dropping the NRA contract made some sense. They could say that they still welcome anybody to fly the airline, just don’t want to offer this special deal due to the controversy.
    In any case, I agree that once you come out and make a strong statement, you should at least stand by it and accept that it may lose you some customers (it may also gain you some others). I doubt this will affect Delta’s business one way or another – even among NRA members, who is going to avoid Delta because of this? That’s right — nobody.

  7. “Staying neutral” would be offering group discounts to all qualified comers — as it is they invite groups of 10 or more and don’t ask political screening questions — not picking and choosing whom not to work with.

    Do you know this to be true, or only suppose it to be true? You cite two cases of Delta supporting divisive groups — the HRC, and AMFAR. I don’t think AMFAR qualifies as politically divisive; the issue seems to involve a criminal complaint that Delta would not have known anything about at the time. That leaves one example, the HRC, which is, hopefully, less controversial these days than you suggest. When did Delta first include them?

    More importantly, are there any other organizations that Delta has declined to offer their corporate discount program to? I don’t know, and I’m guessing you don’t know either.

  8. It was asinine for Delta to pull group discounts from NRA so long as they give group discounts to others. Despite what the first commenter wrote, people DO indeed make buying choices based on what stances companies make regarding sponsorship and political issues. This PR statement is absurd and is written as they stand squarely in the middle of a giant cow patty they stepped in, one that was completely avoidable. FACT: Richard Anderson retired because he was slated to become HRC’s transportation secretary. If Delta tells you they aren’t political, they are not being truthful. Airlines should stay out of highly charged political discussions unless they want to risk alienating 50% of their audience, because that’s going to be where the chips fall on most any issue.

  9. “Delta continues to support the 2nd Amendment.”

    That’s the silliest thing in there. I assume Delta “supports” the United States’ constitution and all its amendments, but I guess as long as they support the 21st that’s all that really matters.

  10. I don’t like many NRA stances. But do folks understand that they represent their members wishes? And they have millions of members? It is like folks are not even trying to comprehend that. I’m no member, but I and many like me would think it is nuts to keep a kid under 21 from buying a .22. I think folks need to step back; understand the issues more, exhale, then make decisions. Sadly Delta did not do that.

  11. The NRA long ago stopped representing it’s members issues and now only serves as mouthpiece for the gun manufacturers. The get huge funding from them to scare ignorant rednecks into believing that any common-sense gun regulation typical of a modern society existing everywhere else on earth, is actually Democrats coming to take away their guns. When they send a mailing with these scare headlines, the gun shops sell out in those areas within days. So this is where Russia got the idea that Fake News could easily be put over on that 1/3 of the American public who are now deemed worldwise to be the stupidest people on earth. And we live in a shooting gallery society where children’s are slaughtered in their schools weekly, something that happens nowhere else in the world.

    It’s time people realize what I did when I escaped an ignorant redneck area where I grew up years ago. This country has been dragged down and will never reach its potential again until this 1/3 of belligerent, bullying ignoramuses are shamed back into their basements just like the GOP itself did after they stuck their cretin heads up and sunk them in the 1964 Goldwater blowout. Even Barry Goldwater before he died had moved on and was horrified at how stupid, retrograde and armed to the teeth his former supporters remain.

  12. Delta’s response is meaningless to most of its customers. If a shooter just got off a Delta flight, that would be “connection”, this is not. Someone stated that Delta “alienated 50% of its audience”, obviously doesn’t realize that most of Delta’s customer are not in Atlanta! The NRA is a marketing/lobbyist organization that fooled millions of members into paying for gun manufacturers PR work. “Staying Neutral” isn’t offering discounts to everyone. I’m sure Delta made a calculated decision, on how many people used the discount versus discontinuing the discount. But to me, Delta looked at the discount as though it was “donation” to the NRA and its supporters and Delta wanted to disconnect. I think it is also difficult to stop “subsidies” to Delta, when United did the same thing.

    This post is just click bait. The whole premise is flimsy!

  13. As a person who enjoys all sports. Including, target practice. I was sad to see that cyber bullying caused the few companies to respond. Our major corporation’s, sports, movie and music entertainment industry has become anything but entertaining. Now we have become like what I remembered as a child. Feeling so sad for Russians who had to watch what they say or feel. They could be charged by their comrades. With that being said. I am an educator. Actually have a Masters. Live in a blue state and am far from a redneck. I’m definitely tired of the hive mentality. I was rethinking my loyalty to industries that are making decisions by invisible people who may not even use their product. It’s very hard to understand how people who have not all the facts make decisions. What is next banning anyone who has a different belief should be banned by the airlines or any business. Pretty frightening this 1984 mentally.

  14. Gary
    I have enjoyed your Blog but you seem to become a bit too political. A per your advise to Delta, keep your political leanings out of your fine Blog. Don’t become like CNN, just gives us information uncolored by your personal leanings

  15. Delta would fly that puke-like rainbow flag after that black criminal shot 2 white journalists live on camera—-there were pictures of him holding that disgusting puke flag promoting homosexuality for the mentally retarded. But no, Delta dropped the Confederate Flag when a nut white kid shot up a black congressional church—-just because they found a picture of him holding that Confederate Flag, which is not a racist flag (although that puke rainbow flag is a racist flag by singling out a non-popular choice against straight people).

    Today, we have Delta flying the racist flag against NRA members of all races, with United (who drags Asians by their teeth out of planes during a bump) doing the oligopoly same—-but no calls for the Broward County Police Chief Miserable to resign, the man who has caused this entire mess with 4 coward cops who refused to save 17 kids, and 25 visits to that killer’s house without even an arrest. It’s sick. Delta is a rotten airline to the core as is the Broward County Police Chief Miserable.

    Fly American.

  16. It’s not just different beliefs, it’s evil. We need to seriously consider repealing the Second Amendment. The antiquated notions behind the glorification of guns runs in the same vein as the glorification of slavery. Move forward, repeal the 2nd.

  17. Greg – you are so smart. Hopefully your comment comes true and the world can be filled with people like you. Then the world will be such a tolerant, loving place and we can all live in peace that you know so much about.

  18. @Gerlad Hansen – thanks for stopping by. I’m wondering now that you’ve read this post where do you think I stand on guns?

    Also to the note about about taking a stand if I’m going to lay out my beliefs I don’t think I’ve really done that on this issue because I actually think it’s pretty complicated.

    I’m not an NRA member. I don’t own a gun. But I also think that most of the discussion around guns is ill-informed [if you’re going to demand specific rules or bans know something about the guns you’re talking about] and be serious about whether proposed changes are in any way likely to do anything about mass shootings.

    In a world where there are ~ 300mm+ guns in the US already, and a constitutional right, let’s have a serious discussion. Australia seems to be a gun control success story (without the starting place the US is in) while Brazil is the exact opposite, only criminals have (lots of) guns and gun crime rose dramatically.

    Personally I respect guns in the home for self defense. I think a gun can be an equalizer for a woman to fend off a male attacker, but it’s important to be trained well in how to use it because they’re worse off if the gun is taken from them. I’m also suspicious of rights being taken away from citizens, whether it’s the 1st, 4th, or even for that matter the 3rd.

    Any traveler who falls for not letting people on the no fly list have guns should know better, the no fly list is a (1) a badly maintained joke, (2) without due process to know whether you’re on it or seek transparent removal. And I’m against the notion of pre-crime profiling whether for flying (right to travel) or guns.

    That said I’m not sure sympathetic to gun ownership as such, and think banning particular kinds of weapons both (a) can pass constitutional muster, but (b) probably won’t do much.

    So there, that’s some of what I think. I’m not taking a suepr strong stand on this issue, I just think if you’re going to do it on either side then own it.

  19. I am kind of getting saturated on this issue. However, I have to say, I am totally against any proposal to restrict gun ownership to 18-20 year old group (including Trump’s proposal) on pure principle. If the Government has the right to draft 18 year persons to fight, they are adults and should have all the rights and privileges of being an adult. That also includes voting, property ownership, independence from parents, smoking (which is really bad for you), drinking, and owning a gun. The Vietnam baby boom generation should remember that principle. We can fight out whether or not any of these things are right/privileges or whatever. If a 21,31,41,51,61,71 year old can buy a gun, then an 18 year old should also be able to buy a gun. They should also be able to buy and drink alcohol by the way.

  20. Maybe more useful to have a discussion of how and why affinity marketing works, and why it doesn’t make sense anymore for DL, UA and others who used to solicit NRA members. It is all about $$$ – if more travelers will boycott DL (likely) for offering group discounts to NRA meetings then it will gain in revenue from NRA members, then it’s any easy business decision.

    Gary’s discussion could be summarized in a simple meme: DL wants to have its cake and eat it too.

  21. What convictions? This is getting tiring.

    Citizens should vote with their constitutional rights and challenging the people they elect. I get the point of cajoling corporations in all but they don’t really exist to be political stewards. (We should also get rid of their right to donate limitlessly.)

    Anyway, tired of the bullying on both sides. And covering this type of crap feels more like fanning flames than moving towards solutions. We are out here talking more about Fedex, Delta, and car rental agencies then we’re talking about who we should elect in the midterms to make change. It’s laughable and sad all at once.

  22. Gary, you clearly have an anti-Delta bias, both from this post and many others. You seem to stay neutral or pro some airlines, but you come across as anti-Delta in many ways.
    What’s the big deal. AA never offered discounts to NRA; shouldn’t they be blamed for not supporting all sides.
    Most big companies are going to pull back from any highly controversial organizations when they are in the headlines. Happens all the time. No blog about the other travel companies? No blog that the GA public officials are threatening Delta in an unethical way?

  23. @Bryan – the threat from the Lt. Governor of Georgia who is running for Governor is in a post tomorrow. That came out after this post was published.

    I write positive things about Delta when there’s something positive to say, even when it runs counter to the conventional wisdom. Just today:

    Funny thing is that American thinks I’m uniquely hard on them. And United thinks I’m uniquely hard on them. It’s usually those with a bias who think I’m the biased one. 😉

  24. Gary, I applause your willingness to consider the merits of arguments from both sides despite your political leaning. Political debates in public arena nowadays are so divisive that civil dialogue are almost impossible. As a consequence, reasonable solution or compromise is so difficult achieve. Can we all take a step back ask ourselves some basic questions? For the anti gun side: what specific law or regulations that you want to implement? and is there any evidence that the new law or regulations would have meaningful impact on gun violence? would there be any unintended consequence? For the pro gun side, without quoting constitution every time, what concrete steps we can all do to improve gun safety and reduce gun violence?

  25. Thanks Gary for a meaningful article and discussion. To both sides I would say it’s always a good thing to have a respectful, open and thoughtful discussion. Name calling, drawing conclusions based on emotion or phobias doesn’t advance one’s position. It only makes it less likely we will solve those issues. If the government tried to prevent you from participating in this blog, wouldn’t you invoke the first amendment? If the government tried to convict you of a crime using your own testimony wouldn’t you invoke the fifth amendment? If the government tried to enter your house without a warrant wouldn’t you invoke the fourth amendment? The rat in the woodpile of what to do about this important issue isn’t Delta, Gary Leff or the NRA. It’s us. If we believe our government is failing us on this or any issue then we the people need to change our elected representatives and senators.

  26. “Their lobby shop is willing to spin for things that are in their own narrow self-interest, why not for their ideals?”

    That’s easy: they don’t have any ideals. They have some sleazy executives who decided to put their personal desires ahead of the business, and now they’re upset to discover their “virtue signalling” isn’t going to come cheap. Poor babies.

    Am I going to stop flying Delta over this? no.

    Am I going to bad-mouth Delta when people ask me about it, and encourage them to fly a different airline? Why yes, I am. They’re not PM, they won’t lose upgrades by flying a different airline.

    Will I contact the DoT and encourage them to hurt Delta? Why yes, I will. When I hear about Delta making a political push, will I make the effort to call my CongressCritter, and ask him to oppose Delta? Why yes, I will.

    Will I be petty and vindictive about this, for decades? Why yes, I will. That’s what I do when people assault my civil rights, and the right to be armed, the right to protect myself, the right not to have to depend upon the “Broward Coward” Sheriff’s Department, well, those are pretty much the most important civil rights we have

  27. When airlines pick sides, i think its only fair that i do the same. Thats why i just bought an AA ticket vs Delta. They pretty much all fly to the same places, so at least where i live, we do have a choice.

  28. Well let’s see if this was the right move when first quarter financials come out. Then we’ll know if heads need to roll.

  29. Translation: “We stand to lose too much money, roughly $40 million or so. Our shareholders don’t care much for that …” Didn’t take the NRA and their supporters as well as a power abusing Georgia Gov’t. long to get them back in lock step with the NRAs wishes …

  30. A little late in the game in following this. I just wrote Delta and let them know I will NEVER do business with them again. I will encourage all of my family and all of my friends to NEVER do business with them again.
    Not sure if this will make any difference, but as a life-time member of the NRA, have no tolerance for some company that knows nothing of the issue trying to give their useless opinion.

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