The Racism in Delta’s Fight Against Mideast Airlines

Delta’s roots are as a crop duster company combating boll weevil infestations. Its inaugural flight under the Delta name was to Jackson, Mississippi. It moved its headquarters to Atlanta in 1941, and the airline’s dominant presence throughout the Southeast through its headquarters hub gave rise to the old maxim, “Whether you’re going to heaven or hell you have to connect in Atlanta.”

Nonetheless they grew to become, at one point, the world’s largest airline (since overtaken by American Airlines through its merger with US Airways, but close to overtaking American as a result of continued organic growth). They’ve made significant airline investments around the world with stakes in Aeromexico, Gol, China Eastern, and others. They’re an outward-looking, cosmopolitan company.

Which is why the jingoism and racism of their political campaign against Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar is so surprising. They may believe it’s the only strategy likely to succeed in convincing enough of the American people to act against their own interests — to meet Delta’s stated goals of limiting airline competition and raising prices — at a time when consumers have a low opinion of US airlines. That makes it no less shocking.

  • In Delta’s 15 minute promotional video on the issue they splice in quotes from Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker that have nothing to do with the supposed issue of subsidies, that he would ‘do business with the devil if it was win-win’.

    Doing this (1) shows him wearing Arab clothing while (2) looking sinister. And implying that an evil foreigner makes deals with the devil.

    Scary foreigner

  • Delta’s then-CEO smeared their opponents with 9/11 despite continuing to partner with Saudi government-backed Saudia (which is larger than Etihad but not the target of their attacks) when elements of the Saudi Arabian government were allegedly actually complicit in 9/11.

    Ironically the U.S. needs the cooperation of the Gulf states in the fight against terrorism, and Delta’s claims to the contrary we don’t need military subsidies to Delta to win that fight.

  • Their video attacks Jennifer Aniston for appearing in an ad for Emirates, showing a Delta flight attendant calling the appearance “very hurtful” and another criticizing her “sending that message inside the United States” — suggesting she’s an American siding with dirty foreigners and she’s a traitor for doing it here. These two white flight attendants are criticizing Aniston in essence for selling herself to Arabs. The smear is just ugly.

Delta has aligned itself behind and offered flattery for President Donald Trump and in particular nationalists in his administration pushing to reduce flights to the U.S. by these 3 Gulf airlines.

I take real issue with the weakness of Delta’s argument. But to see them sacrifice what are ostensibly the company’s core values in their quest to have government redistribute income from American travelers to their corporate coffers really crosses a line that’s going to be hard to un-cross.

I’d have thought that was not allowed.

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. This is no surprise. There is a HUGE portion of Americans that are frightened and hateful towards anyone different from them. Delta is just appealing to the same people that Trump (successfully) rode to the White House.

  2. Gary, one of the ugliest features introduced by leftists to modern American politics is the constant suggestion that every action and statement, from being distracted on the sidewalk to reading the Declaration of Independence, is a subtle racist act or dog whistle.

    I think Delta’s protectionism push is disgusting, but this post isn’t much better. Delta is appealing to nationalism, or, at most–and this is a stretch–, xenophobia.

    Please don’t be a part of the problem.

  3. Delta sure seems to be calling Jennifer Aniston a race traitor. That’s not ‘only’ xenophobia.

  4. @EJ: Agreed! Gary’s latest post reads as if it were qhost-written by an “outraged” grad student. I’m also tired of this racism-everywhere-we-look false narrative.

  5. “How dare you call this racism! There’s no racism! I have black friends!”

    Yes the racism everywhere-we-look narrative is pretty tiresome in your white nationalist bubble.

  6. @aaronK Please don’t put us Trump supporters in the same garbage bin as DL. I started boycotting DeathAirlines 2 years ago, this blog has it spot on, racist bastards, and from ATL no less

  7. Lol, I would just point out that you are the one that is saying a picture of his face and his clothing makes him look sinister. That may be the association you make based on your prejudices, but do you not see that you are projecting your prejudice onto Delta and calling them the racists? As for the deal with the devil thing, if I’m not mistaken, Al-Akbar was actually quoted and filmed saying that. Sooooo…how exactly is quoting him an act of racism?

  8. Meh – enough with the Leff wing racism chanting. Delta is just looking out for their business, and their business, as we are all aware, is giving the business to their customers. Driving out competition is surely the best way to do that.

  9. We all make different associations based on our experience and prejudices. You look at that picture of him and labeled it “scary foreigner” but that is not what I see at all. I look at that same picture and see a”wormy little punk bully that likes to feel big by oppressing the powerless, insulting old ladies, exploiting young women FA’s to be sex objects, underpaying powerless southeast asians desperate for work but would go down with one punch.” Pretty polar opposite of “scary” is what I see.

  10. How did you know those two (2) flight attendants were white, Gary? Were you wearing glasses over your overweight, pudgy, Angelo Muscat face? You wouldn’t know nationality if it stared you in the face….get over it. But of course, Gary, if they were the politically correct “African American”, you still wouldn’t glean which country in Africa for decades, imposing the lying, left-winged racist narrative such as yourself, dog.

  11. It’s all about money and nothing more.

    If you really want to go down the moralist route of “racism,” why should I want to support countries that want me beheaded or pushed off a roof for being gay?

  12. There is nothing wrong in being a racist. Most people are racist even if they won’t admit it.

    We go to the extreme end of thinking about lynching when we think of racism and instinctively deny it but we are all racist on our own little ways everyday.

  13. @Rob yup. Delta’s shown a lot of poor taste in this fight. Then again, when it comes to how they actually conduct business,* they’re not the ones who pay their flight attendants shit wages, fire female flight attendants who get pregnant or cavort with (gasp) men.

    *fine, fine, skypesos. Remind me how valuable any of the ME3’s loyalty programs are.

  14. @Pete: There is certainly plenty of racism to be found. But it’s not everywhere, all the time. THAT is the false narrative. Get over yourself.

  15. @tommyleo

    Congratulations for recognizing that there is racism. That makes you one of the “sane” ones. I have nothing to get over…you all were the ones hyperventilating over Gary pointing out ugly and racist stereotypes.

  16. Attention: Redneck baboons. Do you think you’re fooling anyone pretending you’re fair-minded observers calling out “leftists,” which is the new hick dog whistle for filthy, fat racist Trump supporters. You even kick the educated by referring derisively to “grad students” further elucidating the divide is between intelligence and dumb-as-rocks rednecks who don’t know “Some of my best friends sre black” is a pumchline.

    We’ve had enough of you holding us back from being a fully modern nation, now ranking at the bottom in the quality of life categories that matter. You’ve now fully revealed you are the lowest morals degenerates on earth with your icon Trump – lower than your previous icon Bush from the cover of Mad Magazine – unredeemed from the worst son in human history, filthy fat bigots like nowhere else on earth demonizing kindness, generosity, human decency, science, women’s equality, and every other marker of a modern evolved society which you decry and defile.

    We will fight you with the force of all decent people on this planet, until you are shoved back in the Crazy Aunt basement where your own GOP shoved you after you trainwrecked them with Goldwater in 1964, declaring you the filthiest bigots on Earth. As they teach in the other modern countries’ schools to warn their own children against ignorance, the American redneck is the one true greatest threat, Destroyers of civilization, ruiner of all that was great about America.

    Enough, hideous swine!.

  17. When is the last time you heard someone admit to having racist attitudes and acting in accordance with those attitudes? As soon as all those Jim Crow laws that had been on the books for decades in about every state were invalidated by left wing activist judges and blatant discrimination in employment, education and housing had been declared illegal, all vestiges of racism have disappeared. As a society we are now as pure as the driven snow.

  18. Don’t we all should have 2 black friends for good measure…so we can claim we’re not racist.

    @Greg – great text, although I suspect very few trump deplorables will get to the end, and those that do, will likely have to refer to a dictionary for over half of the terms you used – wait, they probably traded their “useless” dictionary for yet another “useful” gun…

    Can’t blame delta, this tactics worked for trump, so we know that there are at least slightly less than half of the voting population ignorant and stupid enough to fall for it.

    BTW, these imbeciles also believe that about 3 million votes were fraudulent and that they are really more than half of the population. The sad part is that given that these uneducated idiots have more kids than the average population, they might very soon be in fact majority – although they also kill themselves way more often in domestic gun related accidents…so maybe not.

    Pretty sad reality for this country…

  19. I’m sure that, given the right instruction from the alt-right and corporatist medias, many Americans today would pillory Reagan, Nixon, and Eisenhower for being “socialists”, because they didn’t engage in the appropriate level of subservience to the corporate robber-barons.

    So sad to see that otherwise, sane, bright, and rational people have been hoodwinked into thinking that Delta’s overt racist and xenophobic lobbying efforts against competitors that are doing a better job are, in fact, valid arguments against actual unfair practices.

  20. I was tracking them in graduate statistics lab at UCLA in the early days of talk radio when I first heard the bigots I’d escaped in Midwest coming over my radio after civilization itself. They remain about a,solid third of the US, enough when whipped chronically by radio or Faux into a froth to scuttle progress.

    However the key third are the middle unaffiliateds who won’t time out of frivolous social media and trivia enough to save their own country unless rallied by a charismatic leader like Obama. A good part of them can also be duped otherwise by Fake News and the relentless stream of right wing lies and false scandal. It’s this third that will forfeit the American democracy.

  21. What’s with this blog in particular and old fart conservative sexist racist baby boomer types? Seems like a large portion of the readers of this blog is two generations too old. Akbar al Baker himself probably doesn’t care for grandmas and grandpas like you guys. Don’t you know where nationalism and protectionism comes from? Hint: its racism!

  22. Gary is a world traveler. One that actually opens his eyes to the world, clearly understands that America is not the best at everything, and sees other countries have decent intelligent human beings like (some of) the US has.

    The rest of the planet is far more worldly than 95% of Americans (just a rough estimate there) that means actually fitting in with realities, real stuff, not Disney fake, I’m obsessed with myself, money, brash Americana, and BS that doesn’t exist. Oh… and while we are talking of percentiles , the US population is a mere 5% of the planet.

    It’s a pathetic joke (one that’s on you) that Trump was elected by an incredibly ignorant electorate. The racist, ignorant, arrogant truth isn’t out there now. The only way is down now.

    Until “you’all” reverse the mistake. But you won’t, cos it’s been six months and Trumpsters (and the big 3 airlines) still cling to their ridiculous embarrassing hero.

    Sorry fellow Dems… you could, and should do more too.

  23. It’s possible to dislike – or even deplore – something without calling it “racist.” Evidently Gary Leff can’t. Which makes me conclude that he’s incapable of subtlety or nuance in his criticism. So I wouldn’t trust what he writes. And therefore won’t read anything he posts any more.

  24. “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

    ― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It

    I believe that it was Gary that first drew my attention to these fine words by one of America’s greats.

  25. Evidence gathered during a global, two-year long investigation reveals that two countries with Open Skies agreements, Qatar and the UAE, have caused a substantial distortion of international markets by providing massive subsidies and other extraordinary benefits to their state-owned airlines, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates Airline. If unchecked, these practices could threaten the airline industry, aviation jobs, and communities throughout the United States. They already have cost American jobs by selling tickets below costs. The purpose of these agreements are to create a level playing field and protect American jobs.

  26. @Robert Peifer – hahahahahaha!

    This 2 year long investigation? It generated a white paper with fabricated quotes.

    Already cost American jobs? Aviation jobs are at an all time high. They bring passengers to the US. They support jobs at Alaska and Jetblue. They buy Boeing planes (how many Boeing long haul aircraft does Delta have on order? ZERO).

    The major US airlines earn a plurality of all the world’s airline profits.

    In any case you have no idea what “the purpose of these agreements” is, because it is not to “protect American jobs.” Go back and do your homework!

    The point of this post though is that the debate should be argued without racial slurs and xenophobia. The level of your discourse is MUCH higher than Delta’s.

  27. Gary, we are the only country that doesn’t enforce their “Open Sky’s Agreement” and it does cost jobs and revenue to US airlines, and ultimately their employees.US airlines have pulled out of several markets they can’t compete in and that kills jobs. I promise you, those countries enforce the Open Sky’s agreement in their country. The premise was that as commercial aviation expanded in response to increased world travel, there would be an opportunity for private airlines to compete for those passengers in the Open Marketplace without government interference, and that this would benefit everyone: passengers would have choices, competition would keep rates reasonable, and airlines would be pushed to improve services and schedules. Right now Emerites has 94 Airbus A-380’s-incredible. You can’t redefine what the agreements are or why they were created because you don’t like airlines in general.

  28. I enjoy your blog but I’m signing off.There seems to be a great deal of confusion about the purpose of Open Skys, who actually gets hurt, and what happens when one of the signatories cheats and the other closes their eyes.

  29. Delta treats its’ customers and skymiles members like the hub captive flyers that were stuck with delta if you lived in the southeas and had to fly through atlanta to get anywhere. Does remodeling the delta lounge at LGA make Delta a cosmopolitan airline? What’s in downtown atlanta? The most forward looking and civic minded part of Atlanta has always been its highway bypass. At least on the ground, you could always drive around it.


  30. LOL at this comments section.

    I enjoy seeing “small-government” conservatives come to the defense of corporate welfare toward Delta because Gary had the gall to call something “racist”.

    Fellow conservatives:
    Put your money where your mouth is. If you think welfare for the poor, hungry, or disabled is not something for the government to focus its efforts towards, then why is it ok for DL to shift US diplomatic policy to line their own corporate coffers?

    Question is of course rhetorical. The hypocrisy of conservatives within the Republican party is well known. See: the New York anti-Iraq-war RINO-since-2012 wall-street-hedge-fund-cabinet-running multiple-divorcee they elected to the presidency. Plop Trump’s butt in the White House 20 years ago and everyone on earth would have thought he was Ted Kennedy 2.0. Now? Leader of the Republicans.


  31. All Hail Drumpf: Sorry but corporate welfare?? How is abiding by an Open Sky’s agreement by only ONE of the signatories corporate welfare? An agreement between two parties is worthless if it isn’t enforced, and worthless if only one party is in compliance. Every trade treaty the US enters into is an attempt to level the playing field, protect American jobs, and/or give a slight edge to preferred trading partners who are emerging economies. What in the world does this have to do politics? Since you brought it up, sounds like you measure success but the number of people you can add to the welfare rolls. Your all about hurting Delta, a company that employs 85,000 people who depend on Delta to do well. You argue that it’s OK if countries cheat on agreements that American companies signed in good faith, and abide by, thereby hurting American companies and workers. You have the ridiculous argument that it’s OK that other countries cheat then you blame our companies for having the audacity to to try to expose the violation. Why don’t you concentrate on trying to create opportunity and lift some of those poor up and OFF the welfare rolls? You want increased opportunity, wage growth, medical, dental, 401(K), maternity leave, etc. all the while demonizing and draining capital from the economy and the very companies that you demand these things from. Where were you when the US airlines lost more money in a couple years than the entire US airline industry made in it’s lifetime. A few years ago the value of Emirates aircraft order exceeded the market cap of the entire US airline industry. Tens of thousands of airline employees lost their jobs and their retirements, permanently, and those that didn’t loose their jobs took massive cuts in pay and benefits. Most countries are cheerleaders for their companies and wish them well because they understand that when you hurt business, you hurt labor. With cool-aid drinkers like yourself around, we’ll keep driving companies away and keep the poor mired in poverty with no path out. You would drive all companies away to somewhere business friendly, where they can compete and when they leave, they’ll take jobs, opportunity, and tax revenue with them. Savvy !!

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