Delta Air Lines faced having a lucrative tax break on jet fuel repealed by Georgia’s state legislature last night after the airline’s chief executive, Ed Bastian publicly denounced a controversial voting law calling it “unacceptable”, “wrong” and “based on a lie”.
On Wednesday night, the Republican-controlled Georgia House narrowly passed an amendment that would have repealed tax breaks on jet fuel for the Atlanta-based airline. The move was an apparent punishment for Delta’s criticism of the new voter law known as SB202.
After initially supporting the law and even suggesting that the airline had played a key role in crafting the legislation, Bastian told employees in a video message on Wednesday that the “entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections”.
“I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values,” Bastian continued. “It’s evident that the bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives. That is wrong”.
Bastian insisted, however, that Delta and other Georgia-based corporations had worked to remove “some of the most egregious measures from the bill” and that they had “some success in eliminating the most suppressive tactics that some had proposed.”
The more hardline comments came only after a social media backlash and the threat of a boycott.
Bastian’s apparent change of heart angered Georgia governor Brian Kemp who said Bastian’s statement stood in “stark contrast to our conversations with the company”.
As the pressure on Delta mounted, the Georgia House voted to repeal jet fuel tax breaks worth $35 million – a punishment that was largely symbolic the move had to be confirmed by the Senate which adjourned without ever taking a vote on the measure.
Delta previously had the tax break stripped from it when it ended a group discount for the National Rifle Association in 2018. The incentive was later returned to Delta as anger over the decision ebbed away.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.