Last updated: 01:14 PM ET, Thu October 22 2015

Delta Fires Back At Hillary Clinton

Airlines & Airports | Delta Air Lines | Rich Thomaselli | October 22, 2015

Delta Fires Back At Hillary Clinton

Maybe Delta Air Lines should get into the fact-checking business of U.S. politics.

The Atlanta-based carrier has fired back at Democratic presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding a claim she made in a recent first-person piece for the online magazine Quartz.

In the story, Clinton wrote: “Over the past year, oil prices have fallen from over $100 a barrel to under $50, and the price of jet fuel has dropped more than a dollar per gallon. But the four major airlines—down from 10 airlines just 15 years ago—are charging as much as ever for tickets, even as they hit travelers with extra fees, for everything from checking a suitcase to picking a seat when they fly home at the holidays.”

Hang on there, Madame Secretary, says Delta.

The airline didn’t just respond and say Clinton was wrong, it devoted an entire blog post by Ben Hirst, Delta’s executive vice president for corporate affairs and special counsel, to refute the claim.

Hirst wrote that Clinton was absolutely correct in noting that "It's good for our economy when companies prosper by innovating, creating new products, and investing in their workers," as she said in the Quartz piece.

But, Hirst wrote, to say the airline industry is one where that is not happening is flawed.

 “That’s just not true,” Hirst wrote of Clinton’s claim that airfares are as high as ever.

Hirst pointed out that the average airline fare in 2014 was about $400, including fees. This was $50 lower than the average fare 15 years ago, adjusted for inflation, and seven percent lower than they were a year ago.  

“The fragmented airline industry of 15 years ago not only produced higher fares for consumers. It led to $65 billion in airline losses over the next nine years, and 142,000 lost middle-class jobs,” Hirst wrote. “Strapped for cash, airlines were unable to invest in customer service and the flying experience suffered – consumers certainly felt the difference. For airlines, their employees and customers, the pre-consolidation period of 2000–2009 was a dismal period – the only ones who prospered were the bankruptcy lawyers.”

Speaking for both Delta and the industry in general, Hirst wrote that the large airlines are investing billions of dollars in new aircraft and improved technology, and competition has spawned the highest number of available airline seats in the domestic market and the highest ever internationally.

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