Delta CEO on new jets and uniforms, and ending NRA discounts

Delta CEO Ed Bastian is working to transform the company, investing in a new look for the employees, major renovations at California’s LAX and New York’s LaGuardia airports, as well as new jets. The average age of Delta planes is 16.7 years, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission, older than some of the other major airlines.

“It’s not the age of the plane that matters, because if you look at our reliability statistics, we’re leading the industry by a large measure across every dimension. But what we’re doing is we’re buying new planes. We’ve got 65 new planes coming into the fleet this year. Next year’s going to be 85,” Bastian said Wednesday on “CBS This Morning.” 

Bastian also said the airline was going for a “sophisticated look” with the new uniforms designed by Zac Posen. 

“One of the things that we talk to our employees and customers about is our uniforms, while they’re very traditional, very professional, don’t stand out. They couldn’t identify the Delta uniforms from the other competitors because they all kind of were in the mix,” Bastian said. Now, with the “passport plum”-colored uniforms, “no one will miss the Delta people.” 

Delta made headlines earlier this year after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, when the company decided to end discounts for National Rifle Association members. Bastian said it wasn’t a political decision “at all.” 

“When we saw the divisive commentary coming out of the NRA following the shooting, and we saw how our brand was featured on their website because we gave a relatively modest discount, we said we couldn’t have our brand affiliated with any organization that had that level of divisiveness attached the response to the shooting,” Bastian said. He added that Delta is reviewing its policy for other groups with a “politically divisive nature” as well. 

While the NRA was “emotional” about Delta’s decision, Bastian said, “Our values aren’t for sale.” Georgia state lawmakers were considering a tax break for the airline but decided against it after Delta discontinued the NRA discounts – something Bastian said cost the Atlanta-based company $40 million a year. 

The company flew Parkland shooting survivors to various rallies, which Bastian said was in the works before the NRA decision.  

“Prior to that even occurring, we had immediately reached out following the shooting to the Parkland school as a community outreach and asked the school what we can we do to help. And one of the things they said they could do to help is help transport students. So we’d already made that decision prior to the NRA decision to take the kids up to the rally to let them heal,” Bastian said.

Asked about Starbucks’ anti-bias training that took place in stores across the country on Tuesday after a controversial arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia store, Bastian said Delta has also emphasized such training.  

“We’ve had all of our employees go through bias training and we continue to focus on that… We carried 200 million people a year, and when you’re out there as a public brand – and we’re a public, we’re a lifestyle brand – you have to at all times be aware of your environment, not just in the U.S., on an international scale as well,” Bastian said. 

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