(Adds details on how many people have used discount)
By Alana Wise
NEW YORK, March 2 (Reuters) - Delta Air Lines is reviewing its relationships with all “politically divisive” groups, the carrier’s chief executive said in a Friday memo to employees, following blowback this week from the airline’s decision to cut ties with the National Rifle Association.
In a memo to employees posted to its website, Delta addressed the weeklong uproar surrounding its decision last week to no longer offer a travel discount to NRA members after a Feb. 14 massacre of 17 students and educators at a Florida high school reignited the nation’s long-running debate on gun ownership laws.
“Our discounted travel benefit for NRA members could be seen as Delta implicitly endorsing the NRA. That is not the case,” Chief Executive Ed Bastian wrote in the memo to employees.
“We are in the process of a review to end group discounts for any group of a politically divisive nature.”
Since announcing its decision to cease its relationship with the NRA, Delta has faced calls for a boycott from members of the powerful gun rights group.
Republican state officials in Georgia on Thursday punitively struck down a proposed jet fuel tax exemption that would have saved Delta, the state’s largest private employer, some $40 million per year, despite public support for the proposal from the state’s Republican governor, Nathan Deal.
Only 13 people ever had taken advantage of the defunct discount program, according to Delta spokesman Trebor Banstetter. Under the estimated savings of the failed tax provision, that boils down to more than $3 million per discount user.
“While Delta’s intent was to remain neutral, some elected officials in Georgia tied our decision to a pending jet fuel tax exemption, threatening to eliminate it unless we reversed course,” Bastian said in the memo. “Our decision was not made for economic gain and our values are not for sale.”
The state’s lieutenant governor, Casey Cagle, who is running to succeed Deal in the 2018 gubernatorial race, has threatened to “kill any tax legislation” that benefits Delta, prompting offers from several states to re-house the carrier’s headquarters.
Bastian said in the memo that the carrier is proud to be headquartered in Georgia, where the airline employs 33,000 people statewide. (Reporting by Alana Wise; editing by Jonathan Oatis)