U.S. Airlines Stay Curiously Silent On Abortion

Airlines, like many businesses, have become far more political in recent years – taking stances on controversial issues like voting rights, affirmative action, and gun control. But perhaps the most salient political topic right now alongside inflation is abortion – and airlines are staying silent even when asked about the issue.

Airlines Have Going All-In On Third Rail Issues

Sometimes the media has egged companies into political stances. Most often though it’s employees. And airlines haven’t shied away from hot button topics.

Yet not a single U.S. airline has mentioned the impending Supreme Court decision revisiting Roe vs. Wade or legislative efforts to codify abortion rights at the federal level that I have noticed.

Companies Across The Board Try To Avoid The A-Word

It’s not just airlines staying silent. Other companies have mostly kept quiet on abortion despite it being The Current Thing. Some companies have pledged to pay for their employees’ travel if they find themselves living in a state where abortion is criminalized and they decide to get one out of state. Nonetheless even video game companies have remained silent.

We may have reached peak Woke and it’s beginning to decline (but will remain at an elevated level). ESG investing is growing less popular in 2022 because portfolios without energy stocks are doing especially poorly (at least those not taking shorting seriously as a component of their strategy). Netflix is pushing back on employee political sensibilities and refusing to let them drive its business.

So perhaps the timing of the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization helps explain why companies are staying silent, but it’s also the nature of the issue itself.

Airlines Refuse Comment

I reached out to several U.S. airlines over the course of two weeks. Some ignored the inquiry completely while others declined to comment. Frankly that was the smart choice. It’s a Kobayashi Maru scenario where – at the risk of mixing film references – the only winning move is not to play.

Why This Issue Is Different

Despite the clarity with which activists on both sides see this issue, the vast majority of Americans find it to be morally complex – and also something they’d rather not think about. Surveys pointing to support for abortion rights usually really mean for support in the early months of a pregnancy and in difficult circumstances. Surveys pointing to opposition usually really mean late in pregnancy or when ‘used as birth control.’

Meanwhile restrictions on abortion are complicated because the harder it becomes to obtain an abortion – to the extent it is still possible – tend to push out the decision later into the pregnancy which is morally harder still.

Personally I find abortion to be a difficult issue. Because of my own uncertainty I’m reluctant to codify one answer in law. Legally-speaking the opinion in Roe vs. Wade never seemed strong. Stronger, it seems, would be a robust 9th amendment jurisprudence (which only Justice Gorsuch seems remotely interested in).

While unsatisfying to activists, the formulation that seems to match where most people are remains ‘safe, legal and rare.’ Every company is different but given the passion on both sides, and that the passionate sides diverge from where most people are, it seems like this is where any broad-based consumer-facing company would want to be. And that’s asking for trouble on Twitter.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Comments

  1. I want my travel and airline news free of politics of any kind. There are plenty of forums elsewhere for those of any political persuasion. Why intrude into space with the common, non-political goal of making travel more fun and profitable, something which should appeal equally to everyone.

  2. At the end of your blog was a commercial for Roundup. The #1 product used to kill stuff. Now that’s what I call ironic.

  3. Hmm…good? 🙂 Those who need brands & corporations to tell them what is right vs. wrong on any issue are not exactly free & independent souls. Rather, quite shallow actually and morally fluid, which is a dangerous thing.
    Yeah, I need my airlines to don’t lose my bags, get me to where I need to go (on time would be amazing), and not to kill my pet in the cargo. When they can get that right, maybe maybe we’ll listen (just listen) to their position on abortion LOL. Until then – shut it.

  4. Do they fly into uteruses now?

    Why does every company need an opinion on every issue?

    I find this tedious not just as a consumer but also as an employee.

    Can’t I just work hard, produce a great product, get paid, and go home?

  5. Love your blog Gary and I understand why you posted this but I wish you had not. Simple solution for me however. I will not be reading the comments.
    I would rather have a post on how Marriott Bonvoy can win the Freddie Awards best loyalty program 14 years in a row and yet be so universally despised the word Bonvoy is a slur. Maybe that mystery of the universe is just unexplainable…..

  6. There are millions of things not happening in the world. Save your time and don’t write about them. Choose something that is impacting your readers, write an article, and get constructive comments.

  7. Calling the airlines and asking for comment on an issue that they have not commented on and is not remotely related to the airline business is the height of journalistic malpractice – it is trying to manufacture news, not report it. If they had some announcement regarding employee benefits, discount fares to get an abortion, free condoms in the lavs, etc., then you might call to get a comment. Otherwise, you’re just an activist with a blog.

    The fight for clicks grows more desperate.

  8. Because airlines have nothing to do with abortion.

    Should we care about and airlines stance on who should win Eurovision?

    Abortion is to hot button for them. They only “take a stand” when they think they can profit off of it.

  9. Get woke go broke.

    When infants are starving,
    The economy and stock market crashing
    and when we enter an era of stagflation.

    People stop caring about pronouns or some “white supremacy” boogeyman.

  10. You should be ashamed of yourself Gary…. Stirring up divisiveness (like we need more) all for some more clicks. I’m out of here. If you knew what was best for this page you should reassess and delete this.

  11. Unless airlines start offering abortion discount fares to fly to a state where they can get one, there’s no particular reason we should even be discussing this topic here…

  12. Gary, write about whatever you want, it’s your blog, you’ve been blogging multiple times a day for over 20 years.

    Don’t listen to the haters.

  13. Seems like folks here are of the same mind. Why should an airline or any company be obligated to take a stand on divisive political issues? Is that what companies are for?

    And since you chose to step into the fray, Gary, when do you think life begins? Should I assume your answer is contrary to mine?

  14. This honestly is gross Gary. Like it’s bad enough that you’re throwing fuel on the Covid dumpster fire regularly, at least that’s travel related even though you’re just serving everyone red meat to get clicks. But this is indeed manufacturing an issue to get clicks, and it disgusted me. I saw the headline and I’m like you’ve got to be kidding me.

    Don’t become the Tucker Carlson of the travel blog industry. Stick to what you know. And maybe, I don’t know, help people find common ground in things we enjoy and care about even if we don’t always agree on politics. This crap is getting toxic and I’m going to stop even coming to your site if this is all you keep posting.

  15. You answered your question — They are not curiously silent. They are being circumspect in their silence and that is a good thing!

  16. Nothing curious about their silence at all. It is appropriate. I am tired of companies taking political stands – or being pestered to – on topics that are actually none of their business. Or is this some wry but too subtle parody of writers who seek out controversy for its own sake to generate attention?

  17. Come on airlines: Jump right in! Maybe you can even issue flight attendants lapel pins too. What’s wrong? No balls?

  18. I think that the cowardice of the airlines is chickenshit. For the first time ever in our country’s history the Supreme Court is poised to overturn long established law to take away freedoms from the populace rather than conferring additional freedoms. In no possible way is that good and any company with even a pretense of morality should favor more freedom rather than less.

  19. @Christian

    You are confused. The Supreme Court is not poised to take away anything. Rather, it is poised to give back to each state the power to legislate abortion as they see fit. In practice, this will restrict access to abortion, unless Gov. Newsom decides to spend his state’s budget surplus on free abortion tourism for the poor slobs in other states. Consider, however, that a one person’s freedom (of choice) is traded for another person’s freedom (to live).

    Have you noticed that everybody who supports the right to an abortion has never had to face its consequences?

  20. Although I don’t agree with affirmative action as it is a racist policy (much like insisting that the most qualified supreme court justice is a black woman) and it is a misuse of the 14th amendment the NRA isn’t a polar opposite issue under the 2nd amendment. I person could support both without much irony.

  21. @DaninMCI – You don’t support affirmative action? Then you don’t support the electoral college?

  22. Not everyone is a childless neo-communist Gary.

    Many of us aren’t a product of a dying and pathetic culture full of overgrown children who need validation on their viewpoints from every product they consume.

    Maybe they paid attention to WokeFlix and saw that many people will just stop giving them business.

  23. Christian

    That’s OK, Affirmative Action will be gone soon and yet the electoral college will remain, given that they must not be the same thing now can they. And the great thing is that you know it! Pull out your next “what about, what about, what about?”

  24. Agree with @Joey. Can someone in Texas sue an airline for the $10k for flying a woman to Calif for an abortion- that may be a reason the airlines won’t say anything on advice of counsel.

  25. The thing with BLM didn’t age well, after seeing what the leaders were up to with the organization’s money. Maybe corporate heads are starting to wide up.

  26. They should stay silent. They are a business that has no need or desire to alienate any of their customer base. It is about time that businesses stay the hell out of social problems and focus on BUSINESS!

  27. Gary. I like you’d blog but I really think you need to rethink some of the topics such as the above issue. You’re blog is supposed to focus on points and miles. Do you really want to get into devisive non travel related social issues ? Please go back to doing what you do best.

  28. The notion that airlines should be involved in so-called “social” let alone political issues is absolutely absurd. Apparently now they have bought into some idiocy that they should join the worthless show biz mob and grossly ill-informed or flat out ignorant athletes in becoming the purveyors of socialist garbage. They need to spend the time minding their badly broken business.

  29. @Christian – Here’s why you’re wrong. This is the strongest analysis yet I’ve seen about the draft Roe opinion, by a well respected Yale law professor who’s pro-Choice, but anti-Roe. You’re going to have to get past his logic, which I haven’t heard anyone been able to do, and I’ve been looking. It’s well worth your time (and everyone else’s) to listen to on your next flight. And he also addresses why this is not the first time the Court has restricted rights they had once granted.

    https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-yale-law-professor-who-is-anti-roe-but-pro-choice/id1570872415?i=1000560474755

  30. So what’s surprising, exactly, about the airlines’ silence? An airline’s job is to transport pax from point a to point b comfortably and safely. Period.

  31. @Christian
    There was never a right to an abortion.
    You don’t understand what roe v wade was.

    Were you also angry when the supreme court overturned their racist cases of the past?

  32. @Christian

    Afirmative action and the EC have nothing to do with each other.
    Why are you lefties so braindead? Educate yourself.

  33. @Koggerj – Ask someone smarter, which shouldn’t be hard. Since I seem to be the only one handy that fits the smarter criteria, here goes:

    Affirmative action is meant to mitigate (look it up) centuries of system racism by giving an offsetting advantage to a person or group that has been historically disadvantaged.

    The electoral college provides a vastly outsized advantage to rural and underpopulated states. For example, a state like Wyoming may have almost no population but still has two senate seats and 1/50th control over the senate as well as at least one house seat. California has the most population yet still only has two senate seats. The affirmative action comes in when a bunch of low population states vote for a presidential candidate and that candidate wins despite losing by millions of votes because the electoral college determines the president. That’s why the electoral college disenfranchises voters. The main difference between the electoral college and what has traditionally been viewed as affirmative action is that the rural states were never at a disadvantage.

    If you truly want to debate this, try a cogent argument this time.

  34. @Christian

    Affirmative action is systemic racism and the only form that is still left in the united states.

    The electoral college is keep crazy mob of idiots (democrats in big corrupt blue cities) from imposing their draconian will on other states. This country was set up that way that each state has a say. Same goes for the senate. You don’t get to change the rules of the game because you don’t like it.

    Don’t like have California leave the union.

    EC again is nothing like affirmative action which will also thankfully be ruled unconstitutional soon.

    low iq moron.

  35. @Christian
    The electoral college and aa have nothing to do with one another. Like the above poster said before the supreme court will probably strick down Aa soon.

  36. @Krogerjj –

    Learn to argue a point. You either go with I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I or simply ignore the entire point because you’re incapable of making a valid argument. These work fine until you hit fourth grade. Either make a VALID point or just admit that you’re stupid. I’m good with either.

  37. @Christian
    You’re the fool making nonsense comparisons.

    You really are mentally ill.

  38. Stick to the points and miles, please.
    Nobody needs more activist opinion terror!
    So sick of corporate wokism!!!

  39. @Christian – Without affirming your comparison of affirmative action to the Electoral College, which is inventive, if deluded, the Electoral College tilt toward small states through the Senate “bump” has only affected three presidential elections. And they’re probably not the ones you’re thinking of – 2016 wasn’t one of them.

    The three were 1876, 1916, and 2000. 1876 saw Tilden, the popular vote “winner” lose the Electoral College, but you’d have a hard time defending a Tilden win, as voter suppression of black Republicans throughout the South was widespread to the point of turning the election. And in the end, Hayes was declared the winner, but at a high price, the end of Reconstruction and the imposition of Jim Crow. There’s a reason this was never taught in school, we went from the Civil War in 8th Grade to whoops, we’re out of time, to the 9th Grade, let’s pick up American history at some time in the 1890s.

    I had no idea that 1916 was won by Wilson by winning most of the small states, enough to tilt the Electoral College in his direction, but support for the Republican Charles Evans Hughes was concentrated in the cities, the exact opposite of today’s red/blue divide. (Wilson did win a plurality of popular votes, but not a majority.)

    The 2000 election has been argued to death, and was tilted by the Senate bump, but perhaps wasn’t as “unfair” as some make it out to be. If you divided out the Electoral College by Congressional District rather than by winner-take-all in each state, Bush wins 228-207, indicating a wider base of support for Bush than for Gore. (Bush wins the popular vote if you eliminate California from the mix also.)

    As for 2016, again, It’s not what it appears to be to those touting “majority rule”. For one thing, we’ve never had a “national” election, where all the votes are put in one big pile. Instead, we have 50 state elections and always have. If you remove California from the national results, Trump wins a majority. And are you aware that California “suppresses” the Republican vote through it’s jungle primary? If California Republicans thought their vote counted in a “national” election, perhaps they’d turn out. (You can’t have them vote under one set of rules, then count them under another set and claim the election was unfair.) Furthermore, if Electoral College votes were allocated by Congressional District, rather than on a winner-take-all states basis (and it is in Nebraska and Maine), with no Senate bump, then Trump wins 230-205. And FWIW, under a Congressional allocation, Biden still wins in 2020, though it’s close.

  40. To pretend like abortion isn’t an issue that affects corporations, including airlines is completely idiotic. Sure, when abortion was constitutionally protected under Roe/Casey, there was no need for corporations to get involved since it was legal like it or not. Now that Alito and his stooges decided that because a bunch of white male landowners 300 years ago never contemplated abortion (which isn’t even true, for example, Ben Franklin published guides on how to perform abortions based on what was known at the time) the Constitution can’t protect abortion rights, it’s not going to be as easy for corporations to sit back and do nothing. Abortion is not some abstract political issue. Access or lack thereof to abortion something that affects the lives and health of real people. Many of those people, and their spouses, are the kind of talented employees that corporations want and need to recruit in order to succeed. “Staying out of politics” on the abortion issue is going to make it harder to attract those employees of they are pro-choice and want to be able to obtain an abortion, especially for positions located in states that ban abortion. In a competitive employment market, many people are going to be able to choose to live in states that don’t ban abortion or with companies that do provide support for reproductive healthcare in states that don’t. Given that people in that talent pool are more likely to be pro-choice than the average American, corporations literally won’t be able to afford stay silent on the issue, at least if they want to continue being able to recruit the best talent on the market.

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