Delta has pulled out of airline industry lobbying ground “Airlines For America” (which is a name I can barely get out with a straight face, I much preferred the older ‘Air Transport Association’).
They say they want to save their $5 million a year, and the association doesn’t push their agenda anyway — US airlines are split on whether the government ought to declare war on the big Gulf airlines (Alaska and JetBlue partner quite nicely with them for instance, and Fedex has a cargo hub that benefits from OpenS Skies), and on whether air traffic control should be spun off into an independent entity.
Well the jilted lobbying group wants you to know that they don’t need Delta anyway, they’ll be just fine, and they speak with a single voice. So really it’s like they’re the ones who did the breaking up in the first place.
The association waived the normally-required six months’ notice to withdraw and declared Delta out immediately.
The current Chairman of the Board of the industry lobbying group is American CEO Doug Parker. The Vice Chairman is Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden. And they didn’t mince words. What’s more, apparently other airlines will make up the $5 million that Delta’s taking with them.
“We will continue to be most effective as an organization with unanimity and alignment on key issues,” said Doug Parker.. Parker said it would be in the association’s best interest for an immediate departure.
…Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Airlines and vice chairman of the trade group’s board, said the association is based on consensus and “we are pleased to be moving forward speaking in a unified voice on specific issues including higher taxes, unnecessary regulations and the need for infrastructure improvement.”
(I do think there’s a bit of a tension lobbying for more infrastructure spending and against the taxes to pay for that spending, but that’s an issue for another day.)
Delta spends plenty on lobbying, and will continue to. Delta comps elite status to politicians. They get subsidies for their oil refinery. And they’re lobbying like crazy for the government to protect them from competition from Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar (while themselves owning a stake in the most subsidized Chinese airline and partnering with state-subsidized airlines the world over). One Georgia lawmaker even took to the floor of his legislative chamber to denounce the airline for trying to extort tax breaks.
Delta may not find their lobbying as effective outside their membership in the organization. After all, an Airlines for America lobbyist dates the Chairman of the House Transportation Committee. She was the industry’s top lobbyist for the Transparent Airfares Act which Shuster advocates for, and the relationship was first disclosed contemporaneously with his filing for divorce. His Chief of Staff is married to the Airlines for America Senior Vice President of Government Relations.
On the other hand, Airlines for America will continue to push its lobbying priorities with or without Delta’s $5 million, as the rest of the airlines anteing up the difference demonstrates. So they might as well free ride.