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With More States Introducing Voting Reforms, Airlines Could Start Mixing with Politics

With More States Introducing Voting Reforms, Airlines Could Start Mixing with Politics
Joe Cortez

As state legislatures begin creating new laws around voting, brands are being demanded by the public to take a side. After Delta Air Lines opposed Georgia’s Senate Bill 202, members of the state House of Representatives voted to strip fuel tax credits away. It’s a battle that may expand to other states as well.

Airlines often rely on state-level tax credits to offset their fuel costs. As legislatures begin debating laws changing voting regulations, those carriers are among several brands caught in the center of a storm of public opinion. According to an analysis by Reuters, fuel tax credits could become a bargaining chip for airlines to stay out of the statehouse.

States Could Vote to Repeal Tax Credits in Retaliation for Opposing Tax Laws

After Delta Air Lines chief executive Ed Bastian appeared to turn against Georgia’s controversial Senate Bill 202, members of the state’s House of Representatives immediately turned to remove a multi-million-dollar jet fuel tax credit from the carrier. Although the symbolic gesture went nowhere, it could set the stage for a bigger fight in Texas: keeping those credits in exchange for staying away from voting laws.

“We have an eye on that as a possibility,” an anonymous airline employee told Reuters. “And I think it goes without saying that we wouldn’t like that.”

According to the Reuters analysis, the ability to get tax credits for fuel could influence where airlines add service. If a carrier can secure a bigger fuel tax credit, they may add more flights. If the Texas state legislature were to strike down some of those credits, it could cost airlines millions.

It wouldn’t be the first time lawmakers have punished airlines for expressing a political opinion. American almost lost a fuel tax credit in 2016 when they spoke out against the state’s House Bill 2, which would have taken away some protections from the LGBT community. But the Charlotte Observer reported that it was never removed. In 2018, Georgia temporarily took away a fuel credit from Delta for cutting ties with the National Rifle Association, costing the carrier around $40 million.

All three legacy carriers – American Airlines, Delta and United Airlines – spoke out against the Georgia voting bill. However, if they were to do the same in Texas, it could inadvertently hurt Southwest Airlines, which has stayed neutral throughout the process.

Airlines Remain Politically Invested When Business is on The Line

While airlines have focused on carrying passengers and cargo, their executives have become politically involved when their businesses are affected. In 2015, the carriers started a campaign against the “Middle East Three” over alleged government subsidies. An airline employee speaking to Reuters said it was not an equal comparison to this situation.

View Comments (11)


  1. ck8

    April 9, 2021 at 10:42 am

    “…brands are being demanded by the public to take a side.” Wrong…the blue check echo chamber on Twitter is who are calling the shots. Dumb CEO’s who take the bait will dilute and destroy their brand.

  2. Superjeff

    April 9, 2021 at 10:56 am

    Please stay away from this stuff. It rings too close to politics and has nothing to do with the airline business. I personally find it offensive. And I suspect there are many people out there who agree with my point of view.

  3. strickerj

    April 9, 2021 at 12:45 pm

    No, brands are not being forced to pick a side – they’re choosing to do so. Absolutely no one would have noticed if they hadn’t released statements, but instead, they’ve chosen to alienate half their customer base for reasons I’ll never understand. Companies choosing to preach partisan politics to their customers is part of why we’re so divided now.

  4. DeltaFlyer123

    April 9, 2021 at 2:20 pm

    If politics becomes an increasingly pervasive feature in business-government relations, the losers will be the states and their working citizens. Businesses will support candidates who do not alienate their customers. Delta and other businesses will support their customers and not their host community politicians. Delta has been around longer than all but the oldest citizens of Georgia, and will outlast today’s politicians.

  5. cairns

    April 10, 2021 at 8:08 am

    ck8 nailed it. Picking a side means alienating half your customers. Most CEOs are smart enough to know this.

  6. AsiaTravel2019

    April 10, 2021 at 3:34 pm

    Go Woke, Go Broke.

    The purpose of airlines is to make money for their shareholders, not alienate half of their customer base for no reason.

    By the way, since asking for ID to vote is so offensive, I am sure Delta will not require it at their check-in counters anymore LOL

  7. edgewood49

    April 10, 2021 at 4:38 pm

    This is a very slippery slope not withstanding the utter confusion of what is or isn’t in Georgia’s bill large corporations are wrong to get deep in politic’s and ir “selected” involvement according to who is in office or the winds are blowing. It doesn’t except me that moving from GA to Denver first punishes a large portion of people in Atlanta and gives it to Denver with a low diversity rate. Now Biden opined that it would be ok to move the Master’s. What the hell ?

  8. edgewood49

    April 10, 2021 at 5:03 pm

    My opinion about Delta is all the states that have an airline based in their state should granted them the same tax advantage the voters of GA have Delta, I mean its only fair and FAIR is what this is all about isn’t it?

  9. craig44485

    April 12, 2021 at 1:32 pm

    I say fine, if they want to take a stand then let them, and they should start by giving free flights in First Class to all people of color as a form of reparations. All the loyal members of their frequent flyer programs can learn to start taking a walk of shame to the back of the plane and be proud to give up their free upgrades in the name of equity.

  10. mvoight

    April 12, 2021 at 11:48 pm

    Isn’t losing part of their customer based enough, without suggesting they give free tickets to people of color/

  11. Jane42

    April 15, 2021 at 8:14 pm

    These large corporations are the largest group using the airlines! I don’t think that they are going to lose very much by taking a stand. And so tired of them acting like juveniles and planning revenge for anyone that doest do what they want. Threaten the airlines with ” removing a multi-million-dollar jet fuel tax credit ” Ridiculous.

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