This afternoon The Huffington Post published an article by Rabbi Jason Miller entitled “Delta Adopts Saudi Arabian Airlines’ No Jew Policy.“ Granted, this headline is catchy and is inflammatory enough to make the story go viral … likely even to reach my Mother, who will be outraged and possibly forward me a link sometime in the next few days … but in reality so much of the article is incorrect that I don’t even know where to start.
I guess the best place to start is with a quote from the opening paragraph of The Huffington Post article:
“A few years ago Delta Airlines took over Northwest Airlines and now the vast majority of domestic flights at Detroit Metro are operated by Delta. That fact makes it especially troubling to learn that Delta will add Saudi Arabian Airlines to its SkyTeam Alliance of partnering companies and would require Delta to ban Jews and holders of Israeli passports from boarding flights to Saudi Arabia.”
Let’s pick this apart piece by piece.
First off … Yes, Delta Air Lines is a founding member of SkyTeam, as are Air France–KLM and Korean Air. Delta is not adding Saudi Arabian Airlines to the airline alliance, the airline was voted in my its member carriers. SkyTeam is comprised of 14 airlines, 12 airlines, from four continents, were members at the time Saudi Arabian Airlines was voted into the alliance. While Delta Air Lines supported Saudia’s membership, it did so to gain a foothold in a vital untapped market … in short, its business.
Secondly, Delta Air Lines does not now, nor does it have any known plans to fly its own aircraft to Saudi Arabia. The fact that Delta Air Lines does not, and has no known plans, to fly its aircraft to Saudi Arabia means that the airline would not be preventing any passengers, of any origins, from its flights to Saudi Arabia
Third, should Delta Air Lines code-share with Saudi Arabian Airlines on its New York and Washington flights to Jeddah and Riyadh, passengers would be subject to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s visa requirements. The visa requirements for travel to Saudi Arabia are for those flying to Saudi Arabia as a destination, not those transiting Saudi Arabia for less than 18-hours, without leaving the airport during their transit.
Fourth … and most importantly … Saudi Arabia does issue visas to Jews. While the country previously rejected many visa applications based on a person being Jewish, this is no longer the case. Travelers who have Israeli stamps in their passport should seek a duplicate passport, and submit the duplicate passport, with no Israeli stamps, for entry into Saudi Arabia, regardless of their religion.
As for Israeli passports, as a general rule (with very limited exceptions), a visa granting entry into, or transiting through, Saudi Arabia will not be allowed. In fact, Israeli passports are not accepted by Algeria, Bangladesh, Brunei, Djibouti, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia (with limited exceptions), Pakistan, Qatar (with limited exceptions), Somalia, Sudan, Syria, The United Arab Emirates (with limited exceptions) or Yemen.
Why is Rabbi Miller not challenging the fact that Israeli passports are not free to board flights from the United States on Emirates, Pakistan International Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Etihad or Malaysia Airlines?
… but back to the issue at hand … where did Rabbi Miller find any exclusion by Saudi Arabian Airlines prohibiting Jews from flying with the airline provided they had the proper visa? This is not a written or unwritten policy of the airline. Upon checking in for a Saudia flight, passengers must present their passport, with valid visa. Passengers are not asked any questions regarding their religion.
Rabbi Miller’s article goes on to state:
“Kathy M. Johnston, Delta’s coordinator of Customer Care, explaining that Delta does not discriminate nor condone discrimination against any protected class of passenger in regards to age, race, nationality, religion, or gender. However, she stated, Delta must comply with all applicable laws in every country it serves. That means that if the Saudi government denies Jews from entering its country and Delta brings them there on its flight they can be fined. “
The way this is written is misleading … I am certain that Ms. Johnston’s statement does not include “That means that if the Saudi government denies Jews from entering its country and Delta brings them there on its flight they can be fined” , however Rabbi Miller has published it in such as way, without proper quotation marks, indicating that this comment is included in an official statement from Delta Air Lines.
However the crux of Ms. Johnston’s quote goes back to a significant point, Delta Air Lines does not fly to Saudi Arabia. Delta should clearly state it does not directly fly to Saudi Arabia on its own aircraft and refer all issues to its future code share flights with Saudi Arabian Airlines to Saudia directly.
There is enough hatred and ill will between nationalities and religions in the world … do we really need to drag airlines into the argument? Especially an airline that does not even fly to the country in question?
(*For Disclosure … I am Jewish guy who was born and raised in New York and I took my very first flight at 8 months old on a Delta Air Lines L-1011*)