Walmart, Delta, and Coca-Cola refused to join hundreds of other companies in opposing restrictive voting laws – here’s why

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. Todd Kirkland/AP

While hundreds of major companies signed a new letter Wednesday opposing restrictive voting rules in the wake of Georgia’s election law, some notable ones – including Walmart, Coca-Cola, JPMorgan, and Delta Air Lines – declined to join the effort.

The letter, which ran as a full-page ad in the Wednesday edition of The New York Times and Washington Post, opposed “any discriminatory legislation” that limited people’s ability to vote. United Airlines, American Express, Facebook, Target, investor Warren Buffett, and others joined the effort.

Last month, a smaller group of companies signed a letter with similar sentiment organized by Black business leaders.

But, the Times reported, several companies declined to sign Wednesday’s letter, including Georgia-based Coca-Cola, Delta, and Home Depot, as well as Walmart and JPMorgan Chase.

“We publicly made our own strong statement last month about the critical importance of every citizen being able to exercise their fundamental right to vote,” a spokesperson for JPMorgan said.

The bank’s chief executive, Jamie Dimon, was one of the first major business leaders to speak out against the law, saying on CNN that he encourages workers to exercise their right to vote and opposes any efforts that would prevent them from doing so.

When asked about not signing onto Wednesday’s statement, a spokesperson for Home Depot said: “We’ve decided that the most appropriate approach for us to take is to continue to underscore our belief that all elections should be accessible, fair and secure and support broad voter participation, and to continue to work to ensure our associates in Georgia and across the country have the information and resources to vote.”

Read more: Corporate America’s response to Georgia’s new voting laws isn’t benevolence. It’s about economics and profit, experts say.

Coca-Cola didn’t respond to a request for comment. The beverage-maker faced consumer boycotts last month for not doing enough to oppose the bill. It later said it wanted to be “crystal clear” that it was disappointed in the outcome of the Georgia voting law. That sparked former President Donald Trump, a noted Diet Coke fanatic, to tell his followers to protest the company.

Delta and Walmart also didn’t respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Amid pressure to condemn the Georgia voting law, Delta CEO Ed Bastian blasted the legislation last month, saying it was “based on a lie.”

The Times reported that Walmart CEO Doug McMillon told employees in a note that the company is “not in the business of partisan politics,” noting that the retailer focuses on business issues such as taxes and regulation. In the note, he added that “broad participation and trust in the election process” are essential to the integrity of elections.

In March, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed the election bill, known as SB202, into law. The legislation made ballot drop boxes permanent, but only at select locations during limited hours, and shortened the window for requesting absentee ballots. The law also banned ballot selfies, and expanded early voting dates and hours in most counties, among other restrictive measures.

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Corporate America is still dangerously delusional about what the GOP has become

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) talks to reporters with Sen. John Thune (R-SD) (L) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) following the weekly Senate Republican caucus luncheon in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill March 16, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) talks to reporters with Sen. John Thune (R-SD) (L) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) following the weekly Senate Republican caucus luncheon in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill March 16, 2021 in Washington, DC.

  • The GOP corporate America used to know and love is gone.
  • What we have now is an angrier GOP willing to punish companies that disagree with it.
  • It’s un-American, and it has nothing to do with the free market, but apparently the base likes it.
  • That means sorry, the old GOP went out to get a pack of smokes and it ain’t coming back.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Corporations need to hear this, and probably a few half-hearted Republicans do too – former House Speaker John Boehner’s GOP isn’t coming back.

Boehner was perhaps the last leader of a now-dead Republican party we used to know. The one that was born during the Reagan years. The GOP that kept its hands out of the affairs of private enterprise, that championed free speech, that knew how to cut a deal, that you might want to have a glass of Merlot and a cigar with – that GOP’s gone.

Instead we have a GOP that has no problem interfering with private business decisions. Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas, for example, just signed legislation prohibiting private companies from requiring vaccination passports from customers.

Instead we have a GOP that punishes companies that do not share its political beliefs. In Georgia, the state House voted to strip Atlanta-based Delta Airlines of a $35 million fuel tax credit because it spoke out against a law that would make it harder for people to get to the polls. After decades of advocating for corporations to have more political power, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned companies to “stay out of politics,” only to somewhat walk it back after remembering who his donors are.

Some corporations – like Jet Blue, which just restarted donations to Republicans who voted against certification of election on January 6 – are trying to get back to business as usual. Instead they should be getting ready to play defense. With this GOP corporations are likely to become collateral damage as every issue devolves into total culture war.

Yes, the Democrats want to raise corporate taxes, but the Republicans have no problem punishing companies when they stand up for basic functions of our democracy – like easy access to voting – that the party now happens to oppose. That’s the choice for corporations now.

A GOP in need of anger management

All of this stands in contrast to recently published experts of Boehner’s soon-to-be-released memoir – an account of a man watching his party go insane. According to him, in 2010 as the party was radicalizing “a total moron and get elected just by having an R next” to their name.” He described birtherism – the wind beneath the wings of Donald Trump’s political aspirations – as “truly nutty.” All of it, he said, made it nearly impossible to cut deals with the Obama administration.

This isn’t to say that Boehner isn’t partly responsible for what the GOP has become, but it’s telling that he has written a memoir that marks a line in the sand between the GOP he presided over and the one that coalesced under Trump. He knows that the GOP post-Boehner era is an assemblage of everything that pushed him out of Washington on steroids.

Part of what Trump added to the “truly nutty” was pure rage. In an excerpt published by Punchbowl News, Boehner said after he shared a round of golf with Trump, it was the future president’s anger that stood out to him the most. A staffer accidentally told Trump and Boehner the wrong names of two men playing golf with them. Boehner shrugged it off, but Trump eviscerated the staffer publicly in a way that took Boehner aback.

“We had no idea then what that anger would do to our country,” Boehner wrote.

Even with Trump gone, the politics of anger he brought to the fore has remained with the GOP. We are just getting a sense of how it is settling in our politics now, and corporations will not be left unscathed. Politically motivated consumer boycotts have been an American pastime for both parties for generations, but today’s GOP has shown a willingness to dole out legislative punishment to corporations for what should be relatively uncontroversial political statements in ways we have not seen before in this nation, embracing the totality of “you’re either with us, or you’re against us.”

This is not just a phase

Right now the GOP and corporate America have a similar problem with Biden’s proposed infrastructure and tax legislation – the ideas are popular. A Reuters poll found that 79% of Americans support a government overhaul of American roadways, railroads, bridges, and ports. 71% support a plan to get high speed internet to everyone. Over 65% support replacing lead pipes and creating tax credits for green energy.

Americans are also supportive of raising corporate taxes. A Pew Research poll found that 62% of Americans are bothered “a lot” by how little tax corporations pay. That is to say, headlines about Biden raising corporate taxes in order to improve America’s airports are unlikely to upset many Americans.

Now, corporations will try to deal with this problem the the traditional way – by sending their lobbyists to Capitol Hill.

But the GOP has found another way to deal with the disconnect between its policies and their popularity – by staying laser focused on anger and never-ending culture war. Fox News has launched two new shows centered around cancel culture because that’s what excites its viewers. And the loudest GOP politicians with the most obvious aspirations for the presidency have decided that punishing corporations for being on the “wrong side” of any hot button issue is a political win with their base.

That is why corporations should get used to the reality that this is not just a phase. The Republican party requires a major adjustment to go back to what it was. Instead it is becoming more populist and more radical.

If you want to know in what direction the GOP is headed, look no futher than a man who will go anywhere the wind is blowing – Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Once a protege of the Bush family, now his social media is chockablock with culture war video rants that sound like an audition for a primetime slot on Fox News. Recently he blasted Major League Baseball for the league’s decision – triggered by the aforementioned voting law – to move their All-Star Game out of Atlanta. Rubio decided to hit back at MLB by ranting about its business dealings in China and Cuba, obviously lacking the self awareness to realize that at this very moment, the Chinese Communist Party is harassing companies for their political and human rights stances as well.

The GOP may not raise corporate taxes, but it now behooves it to attack corporate interests in other ways. Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley – a young man who has had quite a lot of success fundraising after helping to incite the January 6 Capitol riot – tweeted about punishing “woke” companies using antitrust legislation to break them up. I needn’t tell you that punishing companies for taking a political stance is not what anti-trust legislation is for.

This is the direction the Republican party is moving in. Remember that it did not present a platform during the 2020 presidential election. It did not reiterate a belief in the free market or free speech or small government or democracy. All it had was Donald Trump, and the anger that blew John Boehner and his GOP away. It’s time to come to terms with that.

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Corporate America wants to avoid higher taxes and social issues. That’s not likely to happen.

Biden
President Joe Biden.

  • For years, America’s biggest companies have steered clear of politics, except for hefty donations.
  • Now, there’s more of an expectation for them to speak out, just as they face a big tax increase.
  • Companies probably don’t want a tax increase, and seem mixed on responding to it.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Corporate America is going through growing pains on political activism – but it’s still trying to fight off higher taxes. In the Biden era, the two may go hand in hand.

Long apolitical, the dynamic that emerged during the Trump years of big business weighing in on hot-button social issues has, if anything, accelerated in 2021, as reflected in the recent corporate outcry against Georgia’s recent legislation to restrict voting rights.

At nearly the same time, corporate America has been far less aligned with the progressive agenda of funding a large infrastructure and jobs plan with a boost to the corporate tax rate. In fact, only fours ago, in 2017, the business community cheered its biggest win on taxes in decades under former President Donald Trump, when the corporate rate was slashed from 35% all the way down to 21%.

As part of his $2.3 trillion infrastructure package. Biden wants to jack the corporate tax rate up to 28%. It represents a hit to corporate profits and many influential business groups are staunchly opposed to it, along with congressional Republicans.

The Chamber of Commerce’s chief policy officer, Neil Bradley, said the organization “agrees with the Biden administration that there is a great need to invest in American infrastructure and that ‘inaction is simply not an option.'” However, he added, “that doesn’t mean we should proceed with tax hikes that will hurt American businesses and cost American jobs.”

And Josh Bolten, chief executive officer of Business Roundtable, told Bloomberg TV on Thursday that Biden should stick with “real infrastructure” like roads and bridges – and he was “strongly against” the corporate tax hike.

Some individual business leaders are coming out in favor of Biden’s tax increase. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has said that the company is supportive of a rise in the corporate tax rate, although he didn’t specify what rate he supports. Lyft president and cofounder John Zimmer has thrown his support behind the 28% rate.

Many other companies are staying tight-lipped about how, exactly, they feel – while perhaps complaining in private, as reported by Politico.

Jeff Bezos
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Corporate taxes seen as a ‘less charged issue’

The corporate response on taxes is a sharp break from the outcry over Georgia. An open letter from 72 Black executives last week was quickly followed by another joint statement from over 170 business leaders urging state lawmakers against “imposing barriers that result in longer lines at the polls or that reduce access to secure ballot dropboxes.”

Companies in the latest letter included Microsoft, HP and Dow.

Vanessa Burbano, an assistant professor of management at Columbia Business School, said the phenomenon of companies taking political stances is relatively new. She said what companies do choose to speak out publicly about varies – although a handful of companies releasing their own statements does put pressure on others.

Doug Schuler, a professor of business and public policy at Rice University, argued the letter from Black CEOs opened the door for other prominent business figures to take a similar step.

He told Insider that his sense of what CEOS were trying to do was “to make statements to their customers, to their workforce, and perhaps investors they are sensitive to these social issues – it’s an issue they should be on the right side of.”

Agreeing to pay more in taxes to fund Biden’s plan to “build back better,” though? Many CEOs don’t want to be on the right side of that.

The corporate tax rate is “a less charged issue than some of the others that we’ve seen companies take stances on in the past, like including what happened in Georgia, including things related to immigration or LGBTQ rights or things like this that are sort of influence the individual stakeholder much more directly,” Burbano said.

Rep. Don Beyer
Rep Don Beyer.

Politicians are also divided

Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat who’s a key vote in the Senate, has expressed his concerns over raising the rate to 28%. He’s more in favor of a 25% rate – and his support will prove pivotal to the eventual passage of any plan as Democrats grapple with slim majorities in Congress.

“Claims that American businesses cannot compete with a corporate tax rate above 28% ignore the clear and indisputable evidence to the contrary,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), Chairman of the US Congress Joint Economic Committee and member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement to Insider.

He added: “It’s good to see support for a reasonable increase in the rate from business leaders as well as former top Republican economic adviser Gary Cohn,” referring to remarks made just last year by Trump’s former National Economic Council director that, actually, 28% would have been a decent place to arrive at in the 2017 tax law.

Republicans have repeatedly made their opposition to tax hikes clear. Top Republicans also blasted companies for wading into the country’s hot-button issues like voting rights.

“From election law to environmentalism to radical social agendas to the Second Amendment, parts of the private sector keep dabbling in behaving like a woke parallel government,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. “Corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order.”

Experts like Schuler said large companies won’t weigh into every social issue unless the pressure to do so becomes impossible to cast aside. He pointed out that large businesses hadn’t weighed in on another set of proposed voting restrictions in Texas.

“To some extent, I think businesspeople want these issues to go away,” he said. “They hate it when the spotlight is on them.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Peter Rice takes charge at ABC News

Hi and welcome to Insider Advertising for April 6. I’m senior advertising reporter Lauren Johnson, and here’s what’s going on:

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Peter Rice.

Disney’s Peter Rice has asserted control at ABC News while the search for a new head continues

Read the story.


Bottles of Coca Cola

Coca-Cola, Delta, United, and 7 other companies blast Georgia’s new voting law in a wave of corporate backlash

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Apple CEO Tim Cook appears to take jab at Facebook saying App Store would be better with ‘more social networks’

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‘This bill was based on a lie’: Delta CEO blasts restrictive new Georgia voting law after activist pressure

Ed Bastian CEO Detla
Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian

  • Delta CEO Ed Bastion released a memo criticizing Georgia’s new voting law.
  • The new law addresses voter ID, absentee ballots, and other rules.
  • Activists pressured Delta and other companies for stronger condemnations.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastion criticized Georgia’s recent voting law in a new memo.

“I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values,” Bastion wrote in the memo to the Atlanta-based company.

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.

“After having time to now fully understand all that is in the bill, coupled with discussions with leaders and employees in the Black community, it’s evident that the bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives. That is wrong,” Bastion wrote.

The CEO went on to criticize the basis for the bill as put forth by its supporters.

“The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections. This is simply not true. Unfortunately, that excuse is being used in states across the nation that are attempting to pass similar legislation to restrict voting rights,” Bastion wrote.

Read more: How early deals with Walmart and Loblaw are helping the self-driving truck startup Gatik make millions in revenue

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.

Delta’s previous statement was seen as lacking by activists, expressing broad support for voting rights.

“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,” the statement read.

Coca-Cola and Home Depot, also headquartered in Georgia, are under similar pressure from activists.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Delta, the last major US airline blocking middle seats, will stop doing so on May 1

Delta
A Delta Airlines stewardess sells food on a light to California in 2014.

  • Delta Airlines will stop blocking middle seats after a year on May 1.
  • The airline was the last major US carrier to keep the seats blocked.
  • Delta says many of its frequent fliers will likely be vaccinated by that date.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Delta Airlines will stop blocking middle seats on planes beginning May 1, the company announced Wednesday.

Delta is the only major US airline still blocking the seats after Alaska Airlines dropped the policy in January 2021. JetBlue, Southwest, and Hawaiian Airlines all stopped blocking middle seats even earlier, Tom Pallini reported for Insider.

“While Delta’s decision to block middle seats has given many customers a reason to choose Delta over the past year, the signature hospitality of our employees and the experiences they deliver to customers every day have also deepened their trust in our airline,” Delta CEO Ed Bastion said in a statement.

Masks will continue to be mandatory, and Delta says it is tapping exports from Emory University and the Mayo Health Clinic to guide cleaning standards.

Delta first started blocking middle seats in April 2020 as travel numbers were at their lowest. The company was open about keeping the seats free, announcing in November that the blocks would stay at least through April.

“Nearly 65 percent of those who flew Delta in 2019 anticipate having at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1, are what’s giving us the assurance to offer customers the ability to choose any seat on our aircraft,” Delta said in a statement.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How airplane interiors are designed

  • Designing the inside of an airplane isn’t easy.
  • It took 20 different teams at Delta and three and a half years to finish the redesign of the 777 fleet.
  • Before they could debut new cabins, a bin-lift assist, and wireless seat-back TVs, Delta’s team faced weight limits, limited space, and safety regulations.
  • Business Insider got a behind-the-scenes look on board a 777 with the product manager and engineer who helped take the new design airborne.
  • This footage was filmed on February 27, 2020.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Following is a transcription of the video.

Ashley Garris: What makes our job very challenging is it’s a game of inches. It’s fighting for every little bit of space.

Narrator: Airplane interiors are a battleground among airlines. Who can make 15 hours straight in the air most comfortable, even if you’re stuck in economy? But comfort isn’t the easiest to come by flying in a metal tube 40,000 feet in the sky.

Alice Belcher: There are challenges because you’re in a very small space with a lot of people.

Narrator: We went on board Delta’s redesigned Boeing 777 with the people whose job it is to make flying suck a little less.

Delta announced the redesign of its entire 777 fleet back in 2018. And the airline finished updating the 18 planes in Singapore in early 2020. All four cabins underwent upgrades.

Belcher: When that 777 comes in, it has a very old interior, so they rip it all out and they install everything new. There is thousands of hours of engineering that has to be done to install all that equipment and develop the interface diagrams, develop the certification documentation.

Narrator: While Delta has announced it will retire the Boeing 777 fleet, its facelift can still give us a look into how designers maximize limited space on a plane.

This is Ashley. Ashley identifies what frustrates customers on board and comes up with possible solutions.

Garris: So, in product development, we have thought about every single inch of this aircraft, from the business-class cabin to the size of the closets to the size of the lavatories.

Narrator: Then engineers like Alice figure out how to bring those ideas to life from this fancy lab in Atlanta.

Belcher: What we’re trying to do is figure out, can we take that technologies, and is it ready to be on an airplane with 281 passengers at 30,000 feet flying 400 miles an hour? And then if it is, what we do is we wanna execute it as flawlessly as we possibly can.

Narrator: So, what changes did designers make? We’ll start with business class.

Garris: This whole seat has memory-foam cushioning in it. It’s designed to be like a mattress, basically. For us, it’s all about picking very careful, sustainable, nonflammable materials, but also making sure they’re comfortable as well. We also have all of our controls for the seat here.

What we really work on is also building spatial mock-ups to really determine that every passenger of all sizes is comfortable in this space here. And if not, then we’ll work to adjust. Can we adjust the console size to make it smaller or bigger and give more room here? Every suite also has a fully enclosed door. And if you’re in the center seats, then you also have a privacy divider between the two seats.

Every seat has a leg rest, footrest, got a remote control, got my nice 13.3-inch high-definition IFE screen.

Narrator: That in-flight-entertainment system is wireless, the first of its kind in the industry. It was developed in that fancy lab.

Belcher: This is our IFE lab. What we’ve done with wireless seat-back IFE, we eliminate the ethernet cable, and by eliminating all those cables that are running all over the airplane, we save about a pound per seat. That’s about 281 pounds per aircraft. Basically equates to 1,330 metric tons of carbon-emission savings per year.

Narrator: Alice partnered with the Georgia Tech Research Institute to create a software system in the IFE that could easily be updated with new technology.

Belcher: We can’t set a whole airplane fleet down every two years and redo it all, so we have to think very innovatively. It also has to last a long time. These displays on an A220, that thing flies eight to 12 hours a day, maybe more. It could possibly be on almost that whole time. We worry a lot about reliability as well.

Narrator: Back in Premium Select, beyond the TV, there’s also plugs and USB ports, and a couple other tricks to designing within this small space.

Garris: So, every seat also has a very large tray table. These seats are so far apart that to put a tray table here, I mean, you would really be reaching. So we put the tray table in the arm. The back of the seat’s also grooved out to still give you those extra inches there in your knee space.

This is Delta’s Comfort Plus cabin. We do want to create that open, airy cabin. Part of that also is just the way that the bins are designed, right? So, they’re still high enough up that you have lots of space and headroom. But they’re big enough to be functional, to hold all of our passengers’ bags they’re bringing on board.

All of our passengers usually really care about storage. Probably fits maybe six roller boards. But if I put six roller boards in here, I’m not gonna be able to close it.

Belcher: Delta came to us and said, “Hey, we have this problem. We spend a lot of money on back injuries to flight attendants. Can you guys think of some way to fix it?” And so we were given the challenge to say is there a easier, better way to be able to push up these bins? We partnered with a supplier in Germany to come up with this electromechanical device.

Garris: The bin lift assist will actually click on when this weight reaches 45 pounds, and it will make the close force like I’m closing a bin with only 35 pounds inside.

Narrator: Engineers also had to make the bins durable.

Garris: These bins are probably used, you know, 500 times a year by all our passengers, so that means, just, they take a beating. We have to really be careful about the materials that we put on board to make sure that they’re reliable and robust and not breaking.

This is really where we spend the most time. I think the hardest part of an economy seat is the inches. So, the industry standard on a 777 aircraft is actually to put 10 seats wide. Instead of squeezing in a tenth seat in each row, we maintain nine. Everyone hates getting that middle seat on a long-haul flight, so instead of having two middle seats here in the center, we only have one.

It’s also about giving passengers things to do at their seats while they’re on such a long flight. In the event that the passenger in front of me wants to sleep and they recline their seat, then my screen here tilts so that I can get a better viewing angle regardless of what the passenger in front of me is doing.

Narrator: But the design details extend beyond just the seats and into the whole plane. They added more space in front of the lavatories for people to line up.

Garris: Making sure the aisles are wide enough so that customers can easily get their bags up and down. Flight attendants can also easily push the carts up and down.

Narrator: They also tweaked the lighting system.

Garris: Our full-spectrum LED lighting has seven different lighting scenarios. So, for your meal setting, you’re gonna have a nice, warm orange-red color that is supposed to stimulate hunger. We also have a sunset setting, which is a couple minutes of transition, which actually replicates a sunset on board, and then it takes you to night mode.

As a designer, I’ve sat in these seats, I’ve flown all over the world. I wanna know what the experience is like, and I want to know the customer pain points, mainly because I’ve experienced them, but it’s also my job to try to ease those pain points.

Narrator: But making any changes to a fleet, big or small, takes years.

Garris: We haven’t even talked about certification yet. Every single seat that you sit in has been thoroughly tested to withstand an accident, if that were to ever happen. Every single piece on here is built with all of those certifications and testing before it ever goes on board.

Narrator: Ashley said the 777 redesign took 3 1/2 years.

Garris: And I would say at least 20 different teams at Delta all working together.

Belcher: We came and we tested it. We had some flight attendants come in and try it out. We did the certification and the installation and all the engineering so we could put it on the airplane, make sure it was safe, and flew it away.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in July 2020.

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Flights are the cheapest they’ve ever been as airlines slash costs and try to coax back travelers

airport time
  • Airfare is lower than ever as carriers try to draw customers back in.
  • The average domestic ticket price is $245, the lowest on record.
  • Airlines are using available cheap planes and laid off flight crews to offer low prices.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Airlines are using cut-rate ticket prices to appeal to customers ready to travel again after a year of the pandemic.

The latest average domestic fair reported by the Department of Transportation is $244.79, the lowest on record according to DOT. That price is down 30% compared to last year at the same time, Bloomberg reported.

Carriers around the world cut $1 billion in daily expenses last year as demand for travel plummeted, Bloomberg reported. Those savings are giving the airlines the freedom to slash fares and entice customers back.

Experts are predicting a return to normal as early as summer 2021, and vaccination rates continue to rise. Airlines are offering cheap rates and flexible booking policies to get people in seats as soon as possible.

All three big US airlines, United, Delta, and American, along with other smaller ones have stopped charging change and cancellation fees on many flights, excluding the lowest basic economy fares. Insider previously outlined which airlines are the best bets to book in 2021 here.

Major airlines are also continuing to add new destinations as they seek to capitalize on the downturn and come out stronger. Low-cost carrier Southwest announced it will add Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Bellingham, Washington; and Eugene, Oregon this summer. These newest destinations were in addition to the Florida and Montana destinations and the 19 new routes Southwest announced in December, including service between Houston and Chicago, Houston and Dallas, and others.

Domestic budget airline Allegiant Air similarly took on a major expansion, announcing 21 new routes and three new destinations beginning in March. Small carriers like Allegiant are expected to recover from the effects of the last year faster than larger airlines that rely on domestic and international trips, Tom Pallini reported.

Airlines can save on costs even further with the availability of thousands of employees laid off in the last year looking for work, and the chance to buy unwanted planes from cancelled orders at discount prices. Traveler numbers, however, remain about 50% of last year’s levels, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

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Delta passenger faces $27,500 fine for hitting flight attendant in face mask dispute with fellow passenger

Delta Air Lines
File photo of Delta Air Lines plane taking off from Miami International Airport, Florida on August 20, 2012.

  • The unnamed passenger had been traveling on Flight 1997 from Miami to Atlanta on October 19.
  • Their neighboring passenger refused to follow instructions and the flight returned to the gate.
  • Both were asked to leave the plane and a flight attendant was struck in the argument that followed.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

A Delta Air Lines passenger is facing a $27,500 fine for hitting a flight attendant, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The unnamed passenger traveled on a flight from Miami to Atlanta on October 19 and was sitting next to a passenger who refused to wear his mask, secure his tray table, or fasten his seatbelt.

As a result, Flight 1997 was forced to return to the gate and both the unruly passenger and their neighbor were asked to leave the plane. 

However, the FAA said: “In response, the passenger accompanying the non-compliant traveler ignored the flight attendant’s instructions, began yelling expletives at the flight attendant and other passengers, and struck the flight attendant under her left eye.”

In January, the FAA announced a stricter unruly passenger policy after dealing with over 1,300 cases in the past 10 years, including recent, violent refusals to wear face masks.

Now, passengers who interfere with, attack, or threaten to physically assault aircraft crew or anyone else on an aircraft now face fines of up to $35,000 as well as potential imprisonment.

In a statement at the time, Delta said: “There is nothing more important than the safety of our people and customers.

“That’s why two customers who did not comply with crew safety instructions were asked to deplane Flight 1997 this evening.

“We do not tolerate violence of any kind and this situation is currently under investigation.”

The passenger facing the $27,500 fine now has 30 days to respond to the FAA’s enforcement letter.

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