Delta‘s latest attack on the ME3 airlines resulted in an unlikely casualty. The airline will drop its support of Atlanta‘s Fox Theatre because the venue hosted a gala event for Qatar Airways on Tuesday night as that carrier prepares to launch service to Atlanta beginning June 1st. Atlanta’s home-town carrier took umbrage with the venue hosting a party for its rival and announced that it would not renew its sponsorship deal when it expires a year from now.
“When the CEO of Qatar first told the world that they would be flying to Atlanta, what he told the world was that he was going to start a flight from Doha to Atlanta… to rub salt in the wounds of Delta,” Carter said. “So we were very surprised and disappointed when we learned that the Fox Theatre — an organization that we’ve supported for years, an organization that has called us its official airline — we were shocked and surprised when we learned that they were hosting the coming out party for Qatar.”
Yes, apparently Delta believes that sponsoring a venue means the airline gets veto rights over every event that venue hosts. And when it didn’t get what it wanted Delta staged a very public – and, quite frankly, pathetic – tantrum over the issue, ultimately choosing to take its proverbial ball away and go home. Chief Legal Officer (is that really a job title rather than General Counsel??) Peter Carter suggested in that AJC interview that a phone call from the theatre could have “prevented the whole thing” though likely in the form of Delta trying to force the Fox to not host the event. And, of course, there’s still the year left in the partnership so Delta and the Fox Theatre will have to figure out how to play nicely during that time. Delta could have walked away next year with a simple “The partnership was no longer successful for us,” and still made a point. Instead it chose this very, very public display. To what end?
UPDATE: The bit below was reversed in a statement later today. So that’s a step back in the right direction.
Even more impressive is that yesterday’s spat with the Fox Theatre isn’t the only sponsorship deal which managed to raise alarm bells. Out in Seattle, where Delta is working hard to ingrain itself as part of the community (though also curtailing growth plans) Delta signed a three-year deal to be the exclusive airline sponsor of Seattle’s Pride parade. And the word “exclusive” in there is an important one. Because it means that no other airline names or logos can be present in the parade. Not surprisingly, Alaska Airlines employees are pissed that, after decades of participation, they can no longer walk the parade in their uniforms, t-shirts or show any affiliation to their company in any way.
On the plus side, Seattle Pride gets three years of funding for its event. But it does so by excluding groups from participating. The irony there is rich. Atlanta, on the other hand, now needs an organization to step up and fill the gap Delta has left for supporting the local arts scene. All because the company doesn’t like another airline. I cannot help but think that even teenage jealousy wouldn’t look this crazy or petulant as retribution and behavior goes.
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