Change for the Better: Delta

A regular feature in CEO’s Corner will be highlighting organizations that have successfully made the change to be on the right side of history. In today’s market, business cannot risk marginalizing any market segment and the LGBT market is no different. One organization that has navigated this shift brilliantly is Delta Airlines.

Based in Atlanta, GA and long seen as a conservative company, Delta was forced to re-evaluate every part of its business after filing for bankruptcy in 2005. Refocusing from the inside out to better reach niche markets, like the LGBT community, meant inclusion was part of the fabric of its transformation. Benefits have been three fold: expanded market penetration, profits and a strengthened workforce.

“In the past few years with the new Delta, the attitude has changed completely. This is not ‘your father’s Delta anymore. The policy is: ‘Bring Your Whole Self to Work.”

-Delta Panel at the Ernst & Young Diversity Workforce Series


Organized and active Gay and Lesbian Employee Network

• Co-chaired by an LGBT employee and a straight ally—providing a forum for sharing ideas
• Gay and straight executives regularly attend the meetings, participate in sponsored
• Active membership in all hub cities and locations where Delta has a strong operational
• Employees are networked via an internal web portal creating a virtual LGBT community

Targeted marketing to LGBT consumers

• Presence in LGBT press: magazines (OUT, Advocate), television (LOGO), and local
• LGBT travel website:
• Annual celebration of Pride Month (amongst monthly celebration of other minority groups) in Delta services: PRIDE Radio Channel (in-flight entertainment featuring LGBT artists and producers), Sky Magazine feature stories and an LGBT community calendar, LGBT-themed films on select flights

Visible presence at LGBT community events that feels authentically ‘Delta’

• PRIDE participation in all of Delta’s hub cities: employees (including executives)
• Incentives given to employees who volunteer
• Investment in a wide spectrum of national and local level LGBT organizations
• GLAAD, GMHC, HRC, IGLTA, Black Gay PRIDE events, AIDS Walks, Reaching Out MBA marching in Delta t-shirts Conference, Out & Equal, Transgender Day of Remembrance, etc

One of my favorite components of Delta’s transformation was the way they embraced it wholeheartedly, merging their reputation for service in the sky as a welcome that translates on the ground.

“If you see us waving our wings at one of the Pride Events, make sure to wave back.”

Nothing can totally protect a company from the random events that life sometimes tosses our way. In December of 2013 a Delta passenger apparently noticed that his boarding pass included the unfortunate confirmation code: H8GAYS. Delta, appropriately, took responsibility and apologized for the faux pas explaining they would ensure their computers would block other hurtful codes from being generated. Because of all the good work it had done in the months and years prior to this event, the company was inoculated from criticism and enjoyed the support and understanding of major LGBT organizations and thought leaders.