New York, NY, June 24, 2011 … In response to concerns of religious discrimination raised by the inclusion of Saudi Arabian Airlines in the global SkyTeam Alliance, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today called on Delta Air Lines to ensure that Jewish, Israeli and other non-Muslim passengers do not face discrimination as a result of the partnership.
In a letter to Delta, Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, called on the American carrier to make clear to officials of Saudi Arabian Airlines and to the Saudi government that "it will not be a party" to discriminatory policies.
The League spoke out after questions about the alliance were raised in news reports – notably, whether as a result of the partnership Delta Air Lines would be forced to bar Jews and holders of Israeli passports from boarding flights bound for Jeddah and other Saudi cities.
"We understand that Delta, as any airline, is required to comply with the visa requirements of the destination country," wrote Mr. Foxman in a letter to Delta CEO Richard H. Anderson. "However, Saudi Arabia's past practice of banning travelers with an "Israel" stamp in their passport from gaining entry into the country runs contrary to the spirit and intent of Delta's non-discrimination policy.
"While this practice affects all travelers who previously visited Israel, it has a disproportionate impact on Jewish passengers," continued Mr. Foxman. "Moreover, Saudi Arabia also bars anyone from bringing into Saudi Arabia religious ritual objects, including religious texts, from any faith other than Islam, effectively banning religiously observant Jews from entering the country."
In a statement posted on the airline's Web site on June 23, a Delta spokesman stated that, "…it's important to realize that visa requirements to enter any country are dictated by that nation's government, not the airlines, and they apply to anyone entering the country regardless of whether it's by plane, bus or train."
The League responded, "We expect Delta, and any other American airline which flies to Riyadh or partners with an airline that flies there to ensure that its passengers – whatever their faith – not be discriminated against, and that no American airline in any way enable, or facilitate this discrimination, whatever the regulations of Saudi Arabia."
ADL is making similar appeals to United Airlines and other American carriers who service Saudi Arabian destinations either on their own or through code-share partnerships. The League is also reaching out to the government of Saudi Arabia to get clarification of their visa policy with respect to Israeli and Jewish travelers.