Delta Air Lines just sent out the following PR:

“Funding for the expired on July 23. At that time, Delta stopped collecting several taxes imposed on ticket sales, including a 7.5 percent tax on the base ticket price, a $3.70 segment tax and facilities taxes on international and travel to and from Alaska and Hawaii.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has advised that travelers who paid for tickets on or before July 22, 2011, for beginning on or after July 23 and prior to the reinstatement of FAA funding, may be entitled to a refund of those taxes.

Delta is awaiting guidelines from the IRS on the process of providing refunds. However, in to streamline the process, the airline will process refunds directly for customers once an agreement is reached with the IRS on the procedure for doing so.

Information on how to apply for a refund will be posted to delta.com.”

In PR terms this is great for Delta because the airlines have been seen as greedy opportunists while the taxes were no longer being collected by the government.  As the first airline to step up and do the right thing, Delta wins attention as a leader.  The rest will follow, sheepishly.  The airlines looked bad for keeping the money. It’s not like the economy is booming.

But even as Delta is the first to do the right thing, the industry did something Congress won’t forget in a hurry.  Payback is coming, you can bet on it.

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