Activists pressure Atlanta-based companies like Coca-Cola and Delta to take action against Georgia voting law

Georgia polling place
A voter walks to the entrance during early voting for the Senate runoff election, at Ron Anderson Recreation Center, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, in Powder Springs, Ga.

  • Georgia just passed a new law that changes voting and elections in the state.
  • Coca-Cola, Delta, and Home Depot all gave statements in support of voting rights.
  • Activists are pressuring the companies to try to force them to do more.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Georgia just passed a law with new voting restrictions, and activists opposing the new measures are not satisfied by the broad statements made by companies based in the state.

The SB 202 bill makes changes to nearly all aspects of voting and elections in the state, Grace Panetta reported for Insider. The most controversial aspects of the new law include a ban on volunteers giving water and snacks to voters waiting in line, more stringent voter ID laws for absentee ballots, and “ballot selfies” are banned.

Read more: Some investors cut corners on due diligence to make deals go faster as competition to win deals grows fierce, VCs say

Civil rights groups and Democratic elected officials, including President Joe Biden, have condemned the law as voter suppression. Civil rights groups including the New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter, and the Georgia NAACP have filed federal lawsuits against the law as a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Activists have criticized the companies for not doing enough to speak out against the bill. “#BoycottDelta” and “#BoycottCocaCola” were each used in tens of thousands of tweets since March 23, The Atlanta-Journal-Constitution reported. “Do not fly Delta. Do not spend money with Delta. Boycott Delta. Ruin Delta,” commentator Keith Olbermann tweeted.

Religious leaders of the AME Sixth Episcopal District of Georgia are among those calling for a boycott of Coca-Cola. If “Coca-Cola wants Black and brown people to drink their product, then they must speak up when our rights, our lives, and our very democracy as we know it is under attack,” Bishop Reginald Jackson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Voting rights groups have expressed anger and disappointment, too.

“We are all frustrated with these companies that claim that they are standing with the Black community around racial justice and racial equality. This shows that they lack a real commitment to racial equity. They are complicit in their silence,” co-founder of Black Voters Matter LaTosha Brown told The New York Times.

Many companies expressed support for racial justice last year, and activists see their actions now as missing follow through on earlier statements.

“It seems to me perfectly legitimate for Black voters in Georgia to expect them [corporations] to speak just as powerfully and directly about what is an unwarranted attack on the ability of Black voters to participate in the political process” NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc Sherrilyn Ifill said.

On March 15, protestors held a die-in at the World of Coca-Cola against the bill. Coca-Cola addressed calls for boycotts in an online statement: “You may see comments and calls for protests and boycotts of our state and our company. We have never wavered on our point of view and we have and will continue to meet with a wide array of stakeholders inside and outside of Georgia to hear their views, work together, and advocate for greater voting access.”

Georgia-based corporations have so far only offered broad support of voting rights without addressing many specifics of the bill.

“We believe voting is a foundational right in America and access should be broad-based and inclusive. Throughout the legislative session, we have been active with the Metro Atlanta Chamber in expressing our concerns and advocating for positive change in voting legislation. We, along with our business coalition partners, sought improvements that would enhance accessibility, maximize voter participation, maintain election integrity and serve all Georgians,” Coca-Cola said in a statement to Insider before the bill was signed.

“Last week controversial Georgia voting legislation was signed into law. While we are disappointed in the outcome, we don’t see this as the final chapter,” the Atlanta-based company added after it was passed.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian gave a similar statement.

“Delta believes that full and equal access to voting is a fundamental right for all citizens. Over the past several weeks Delta engaged extensively with state elected officials in both parties to express our strong view that Georgia must have a fair and secure election process, with broad voter participation and equal access to the polls. The legislation signed this week improved considerably during the legislative process … Nonetheless, we understand concerns remain over other provisions in the legislation and there continues to be work ahead in this important effort. We are committed to continuing to listen to our people and our communities, and engage with leaders from both parties to ensure every eligible employee and Georgia voter can exercise their right to vote.”

Home Depot did not comment on the bill directly at all.

“We believe that all elections should be accessible, fair, and secure and support broad voter participation. We’ll continue to work to ensure our associates, both in Georgia and across the country, have the information and resources to vote,” the company said in a statement to Insider, listing examples of how it carried out a Get Out the Vote campaign.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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Airline stocks rise as air travel climbs to highest level in nearly a year

American Airlines and Southwest Airlines planes
American Airlines and Southwest Airlines planes.

  • Shares of airline companies rose on Monday on optimism of a travel rebound in sight.
  • The TSA on Saturday revealed that air travel spiked to its highest level in nearly a year.
  • Airline companies were among the industries that suffered the most when large swaths of the global economy shut down.
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Shares of major airline companies rose on Monday on optimism of a travel rebound in sight after the Transportation Security Administration revealed that air travel spiked to its highest level in nearly a year.

The agency on Saturday announced that it screened 1,357,111 people at airport security checkpoints on Friday, the highest number of passengers since March 15, 2020, when it saw 1,519,192 people screened.

Here are the intraday highs for major airline stocks on Monday:

The rise in air travel sends a strong signal that the industry is headed for a rebound after a year of depressed activity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Airline companies were among the industries that suffered the most when large swaths of the global economy shut down, though they are among the biggest beneficiaries of what analysts are referring to as the re-opening trade.

“Demand will increase sharply at the point where vaccines have been widely distributed and border restrictions are eased, and not prior. Expect that in the second half of 2021, possibly sooner if vaccine distribution improves,” Andrew Nocella, chief commercial officer of United Airlines, said during a call to discuss fourth-quarter earnings in January.

TSA in December however said that it expects air travel volume to “remain well below pre-pandemic levels through most of 2021.”

The agency screened some 324 million passengers in 2020, 154% lower than the 824 million people in 2019.

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Cancellation policies for the 4 major airlines show it’s almost impossible for customers to just get their money back

FILE PHOTO: Delta Airlines planes and a British Airways plane (2nd L) are pictured at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, on the day Delta CEO Ed Bastian told employees he was cutting 40% of capacity in the coming months, the largest in the airline's history, in addition to pursuing aid, in SeaTac, Washington, U.S. March 13, 2020.  REUTERS/Jason Redmond/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Delta Airlines planes and a British Airways plane are pictured at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac, Washington

  • Throughout 2020, travelers have been forced to cancel or reschedule trips due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Most airlines allow customers to rebook or cancel, but it can be difficult to get a monetary refund. 
  • Here’s what you can do if you have a flight with United, Delta, American, or Southwest that you need to cancel.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

With US passports virtually useless and coronavirus cases spiking in various parts of the country, many Americans are postponing or canceling their travel plans.

A recent rise in coronavirus cases along with the discovery of a new strain means some travelers may continue to postpone or cancel their plans. And on December 16, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated travel guidelines for winter holidays, recommending “postponing travel and staying home, as this is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.”

While airlines have been more flexible than usual with allowing customers to change their reservations, the industry is losing billions of dollars as air travel remains disrupted. 

When it became clear that air travel was going to be on the decline for the foreseeable future, the Transportation Department said “any airline operating in the US, foreign or domestic,” had to refund tickets for flights the airline canceled and couldn’t offer an alternative without a “substantial” schedule change,” as reported in the Wall Street Journal.

Many airlines have placed the responsibility on consumers if they want to change their plans, but if fliers want a monetary refund it can be hard. 

Here’s a look at what the major US Airlines are doing in the case of cancelled plans. 

American 

Tickets that expired between March 1, 2020 and September 30, 2020 can be used until December 31, 2021. The airline has dropped change fees for flights originating from North and South America. Basic Economy fares are still ineligible for change fees.

Customers can change their flight once, but additional fees may apply when rebooking. Destination changes are allowed. 

If a customer wants to cancel their trip, the value of the ticket will be applied to a later date. There is no outright option for customers to get their money back when they cancel online.

American no longer blocks middle seats.

Delta 

Customers can modify their trips, “including any flights purchased before April 17, 2020, departing March 2020 through March 2021 and all tickets purchased March 1, 2020 through March 30, 2021.” The airline has dropped change fees for all flights originating from North America. Destination changes are allowed. 

Cancellations are allowed on Delta, and the value of the ticket may be applied to a new reservation up to one year from the original purchase. Basic Economy tickets are not eligible for refunds. 

Delta will continue to block off middle seats until the end of March. 

Southwest

If a customer using a non-refundable ticket cancels, their funds will be valid until September 7, 2022. Once a customer rebooks the ticket, it will expire 12 months after purchase, following Southwest’s traditional booking rules. 

Southwest does offer refunds via the original form of payment, but only on Business Select or Anytime tickets. 

Southwest no longer blocks middle seats.

United 

United does allow passengers to change or cancel their flights. Tickets issued between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021 are eligible for a flight change of equal or lesser value without a fee change. The same rules apply to any canceled flights, with customers receiving credits for use at a later date. The airline has also dropped all change fees – including Basic Economy fares – for flights originating from the US.

In the event that the new booking costs more than the old one, the customer will have to pay the difference. 

United, like American and Southwest, has resumed the sale of middle seats. 

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Delta scraps change fees on international flights, joining American Airlines

Delta Air Lines New JFK Airport Experience
  • Delta is permanently dropping change fees for all international flights that start in North America.
  • American Airlines has already done the same, and both airlines have also dropped change fees for domestic flights.
  • Airlines have been looking to bolster passenger traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic and amid the US economic downturn, which has hit the travel industry especially hard.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Delta Air Lines has scrapped change fees for international flights. 

According to a statement from the airline, Delta “is permanently eliminating change fees for international travel originating from North America, effective immediately.” 

The airline is also dropping change fees for all flights purchased through March 30, 2021. The new policy does not apply to basic economy tickets, Delta said.

“We don’t want just another reason why customers are nervous about booking and making advanced travel plans,” CEO Ed Bastian said during an interview with CNBC, per NBC News.

Read more: Airline CEOs say it doesn’t matter how well they protect passengers from COVID-19 – travel demand won’t bounce back until the pandemic ends

Delta, along with American and United, had already dropped change fees for domestic flights earlier this year. In November, American expanded its policy to include international flights and long-haul travel. American Airlines passengers are also allowed to enjoy the full value of their tickets if they make any changes before their travel date.

The US Bureau of Transportation Statistics said change fees have historically been a strong source of revenue to airlines, bringing in $2.8 billion in 2019.

Airlines have been looking to bolster passenger traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic and amid the US economic downturn, which has hit the travel industry especially hard.

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