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Almost a year ago to the day, Delta Air Lines made headlines after a controversial decision to cut ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA), whose members received discounts on group travel. The decision to cut ties came in the wake of the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which resulted in the deaths of 17 students and faculty.

Many viewed Delta’s decision to cut ties with the NRA as a political statement. Delta refuted the claim. In a recent interview with LinkedIn’s Daniel Roth, posted nine days prior to the anniversary of Delta’s decision to end the NRA discount, Delta CEO Ed Bastian opened up about the decision and the events that followed the controversial decision.

ed bastian
Delta CEO Ed Bastian (Photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines)


“We can’t be seen as being advocates in any way.”  — Delta CEO Ed Bastian

In the interview, Bastian referenced the fact that in the wake of the shooting, the NRA engaged in “divisive commentary.” Bastian said he did not want Delta to be seen as an advocate of the NRA and the NRA’s response to the shooting. He recalled discussing the matter with fellow colleagues, saying, “We just can’t be doing this. This just is not who we are.”

When asked by Roth about Delta’s decision, Bastian did not hesitate to explain why he and other individuals at Delta acted to end the discount. “We can’t be seen as being advocates in any way,” Bastian explained in the interview. While many saw Bastian’s decision as a stance on the gun control debate, Bastian reaffirmed that the decision was not political. “We weren’t anti-NRA,” he added.

Shortly after Delta announced that it was cutting ties with the NRA, Georgia ended a major tax exemption for Delta Air Lines, an exemption that would cost the airline $40 million in taxes. Bastian didn’t seem too fazed by that number, noting that Delta as a brand “is worth so much more.” He continued to say that the company’s “values are not for sale.”

Bastian also noted that he was well aware of the risks involved in the decision to cut ties with the NRA, and said of the decision that it “wasn’t easy” but ultimately, “it was a quick one.” While some pro-NRA flyers claimed they would boycott the airline, Bastian confirmed that the negative press and tax changes were only temporary. Georgia eventually reinstated the tax exemptions.

When asked whether or not he would have changed anything if he were to make the decision again Bastian responded saying, “There’s learnings in everything we do but I wouldn’t have changed a thing.”

A Delta A321 (foreground) and MD-88 taking off from Atlanta airport (Photo by Alberto Riva/TPG)
A Delta A321 (foreground) and MD-88 taking off from Atlanta airport (Photo by Alberto Riva/TPG)

The entire interview with LinkedIn’s Daniel Roth can be seen on Roth’s LinkedIn post as part of LinkedIn’s #ConversationsWith series.

Featured image via LinkedIn

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