Delta Air Lines CEO reacts to backlash over Georgia’s new voting law

Ed Bastian talks about the company's revised middle seat policy and the state's plan to restrict voting rights.
5:50 | 03/31/21

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Transcript for Delta Air Lines CEO reacts to backlash over Georgia’s new voting law
We will turn now to travel, something a lot more of you are doing these days, flying in particular, earlier this month the TSA reported it screened an average of more than a million passengers a day since March 11th, so how are the airlines adapting to this pent-up demand. Back with us now, the CEO of delta airlines Ed Bastian, good to have you back here on the show and you were here last November telling us that delta was extending that middle seat block and you said you'd check in with us again, at the end of March, to see if this was going to change. So it's the end of March. What are we going to do with that middle seat block? Good to be with you, T.J., especially here from the Atlanta as you can see, there's a lot of people and a lot of activity going on, as travel is starting to return. We've said throughout the process, that, throughout the pandem, that the most important objective we've had was to reinstill confidence in air travel back in our customers, and all signs are demand is surging domestically. People are booking and making their spring and summer travel plans. We're doing it safely. We're doing it with all of the standard safety protocols, with masks, filtration systems, our care standard at the highest levels of clean ever. And we've been blocking the middle seats and will continue to block them through the end of April. But as customers now, we're seeing the demand come back, coupled with vaccination rates starting to really soar in or country, we surveyed our customers, and the majority of our customers say they expect they will be vaccinated by the start of may, and 75% of our customers expect they will be vaccinated by memorial day. So with all of the demand we're seeing for our product, we felt it was the right time to start opening up the middle seats and give more people the opportunity to fly on delta. So middle seats open at the end of April and we talk about vaccinations here, are you all looking at or do you already know, are you going to start requiring vaccination cards or confirmation that people have been vaccinated before they can Not domestically. There's been a discussion with the administration around testing, or potential vaccination records for U.S. Travel. I don't think that's going to be necessary. We'll still need to consider that for international travel. It's not clear. We'll talk to the authorities around that, but not for domestic travel. We're carrying over a million people a day as an industry, very, very safely. Some people are out there, with the campaign and have been in the recent weeks to boytt your airline. Boycott delta is what they were saying and that's because they didn't think, or at least came across to them in an initial statement you all made about the Georgia voting law that just passed, sounded as if you were supporting that law by saying it was better than the original, but still, you didn't come out necessarily against it. I have a statement here, in my hand now, that you all have put out this morning, that says you need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable to you, and delta has joined other major corporations to work closely with elected officials from both parties and you now find the final bill unacceptable. I guess, look, president Biden has called this bill Jim crow of the 21st century. Critics are suing. Organizations are saying that it suppresses the black vote. So it's unacceptable to you now. What changed? Well, we've been working with the legislature here in the state capital for the last couple of weeks and it's been very frustrating. The early versions of the proposed bill had some toxic and very oppressive elements to it. The final bill still is not acceptable as I mentioned in my note this morning. But we are going to continue to work to make change happen, not just here in Georgia but throughout the U.S., joining arms with many in corporate America, because our black communities' voices need to be heard on this topic. Voting is sacrosanct. It's a sacred right. It's fundamental. And we need to make sure it's not just protected that it's easily facilitated and that's our goal here. Ed, what do you find about the final bill now that's unacceptable that you didn't in the original statement you that made a week ago? Well, a week ago, we were working on it, so we never made a statement that we were in support of the bill, that we were working on the bill, and making changes as we were going through it. We've had concern throughout the process, and once we had a chance now in the last couple of days to fully comprehend, to talk to all people involved, a lot of leaders in the African-American community, as well as our own employees, it's really clear to us, that this is going to have a significant impact on their perception of their ability to gain access to the poll, and we don't support that. And I want to just give you an opportunity here, when people read that, after having time to fully understand all that's in the bill, coupled with discussions with leaders and employees in the black community, it's evident now that the bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many to vote, many people are going to hear that and say you just are reacting now to the criticism and the threats of boycott. No, it really isn't at all, T.J. This is something that we've been working on. I had released a video to our team yesterday, expressing my concerns, and th we needed to be a little bit more clear publicly as to what those concerns were. Ed, there is a lot going on in the skies and on the ground that you are dealing with of course, we know, we thank you as always for your time and the announcement now that in April, end of April, you're going to start opening up those middle seat, adding routes and people are going to get back in the skies, and also a lot of discussions still will continue about delta and that Georgia law down there, but we appreciate you always for being here and you're certainly, will be invited back. Thank you, T.J. Good to be with you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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