Delta's Discriminatory Partner


David French


June 27, 2011

The ACLJ is at the center of a growing firestorm over Delta Airlines' partnership with Saudi Arabian Airlines, a partnership that could lead to an American air carrier refusing to allow American citizens to board its own planes simply because those citizens are Jewish or have visited Israel. Delta is spinning hard, claiming that it does not discriminate and that its arrangement with the Saudis is " standard " and similar to agreements made with other U.S. Airlines. But this spin falls apart in the face of Delta’s previous statements. On January 10, 2011, Delta issued a press release stating that Saudi Arabian Airlines was joining SkyTeam , a select group of airlines that Delta trumpets as “ a global airline alliance providing customers from member airlines access to an extensive global network with more destinations, more frequencies and more connectivity.” But that’s not all. On that same day, January 10, Delta issued a second release , headlined: “ Delta Air Lines Supports Saudi Arabian Airlines' Application to Join SkyTeam.” The release began: "Saudi Arabian's growing hub in Riyadh and extensive network throughout the Middle East will bring Delta customers greater access to destinations across one of the world's most important economic regions," said Charlie Pappas, Delta's vice president – Alliances. " We are honored that Saudi Arabian has chosen to link its future growth and success with Delta and our SkyTeam partners, while bringing our alliance greater access to destinations across the Middle East ." (Emphasis added.) Why would Delta issue a release in support of an application? Apparently SkyTeam members had to vote to include Saudi Arabian Airlines. I guess we know how Delta voted. So why is this a problem? Simply put, Saudi Arabia (in addition to being a hub of terrorist financing and so radical that its religious police force girls to burn to death rather than escape a school fire without their abayas ) is known to blatantly discriminate in its visa policies. The visa application itself not only asks your religion, it is well known that Saudis may deny entry to holders of an Israeli passport or those who (like me) merely have an Israeli entry or exit stamp. In 2009, there was in fact a congressional finding attached to a bill ( The Saudi Arabia Accountability Act of 2009 ) that the country was explicitly denying entry to “Jewish people.” On its embassy website, Saudi Arabia openly admits that it bars entry to Mecca and Medina for all non-Muslims. And Delta is “honored” to be doing business with Saudi Arabia’s national airline? "Honored" to support its application to join a "global airline alliance"? Is it also "honored" to help Saudi Arabia discriminate? Delta can’t control Saudi Arabia’s immigration policy, but it can control whether it does business with Saudi Arabia.