Atlanta-Based Delta Shares News About Plans To Go Carbon Neutral, Employees’ Big Payday

Delta unveiled a plane with all 90,000 employees’ names painted on it. The airline says it’s a way to say thank you. That was just one of the announcements made recently by the airline.

John Paul Van Wert for Rank Studios

Valentine’s Day was especially robust for Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines.

The company announced Friday that it will be the first global airline to become completely carbon neutral. In a video posted to social media, Delta CEO Ed Bastian laid out an ambitious timeline for making it happen.

“We’ve committed, starting March 1, to fully offset our emissions — the footprint we create from our jet fuel and other emissions — our carbon footprint as an airline. We’ll be making investments. We estimate it’s going to be about a billion dollars over the next decade.”

That money will fund developments in technology, allowing Delta to increase its planes’ efficiencies while reducing fuel consumption.

To offset the CO2 its jets will still produce, Delta says it will invest in forestry, wetland restoration and grassland conservation, among other things.

“We don’t ever want to put customers in a position between having to choose a great travel experience versus the impact they have on our planet,” Bastian said. “We want you to choose Delta because of the great travel experience and the difference we’re making together.”

Last month, JetBlue announced it would go carbon neutral starting in July.

So on any given day, such an announcement would be big enough. But it’s only half of what commanded attention at the airline Friday. As 90,000 smiling Delta employees will tell you, it was also payday in a big way.

Delta handed out $1.6 billion in profit-sharing to employees. On average, each worker gets the equivalent of two months’ pay. Add that up, and Delta says more than a half-billion dollars was added to metro Atlanta’s economy.

“This check could be a windfall for these people,” said Tom Smith, an economist at Emory’s Goizueta Business School. And he says there’s the potential the money could have a noticeable effect on the metro area’s economy.

However, if it goes into the 401(K) or to pay down a credit card then the local economic effects would be less.

In addition, Delta unveiled a plane with all 90,000 employees’ names painted on it. The airline says it’s a way to say thank you.

So after two major events in one day, you’d think Delta had its moment in the headlines, right?

After announcing it was going carbon neutral and handing out the bonuses, it was all overshadowed by, of all things reclining airplane seats.

Specifically, people were reacting to Bastian’s suggestion that travelers should ask permission of the person behind them. Bastian made the comments Friday morning on CNBC.

The comments spurred plenty of reactions.