Jun 23 2011
Delta Air Lines’ plan to add Saudi Arabian Airlines to its Sky Team Alliance of partnering companies would require the American carrier to ban Jews and holders of Israeli passports from boarding flights from New York or Washington bound for Jeddah, prompting outraged accusations of illegal religious discrimination.
WND (H/T Elizabeth A) -The issue, which has caught the attention of the American Center for Law and Justice already, was raised when Washington attorney Jeffrey Lovitky was perusing airline procedures for travel.
“As we learn more about the issue and facts, we are determined to ensure that American citizens do not face discrimination by airlines like Delta that are passenger code-sharing with Saudi Arabian Airlines, said Colby M. May, director and senior counsel of the ACLJ. “We will be communicating our position with members of Congress, the State Department and Delta Air Lines to ensure that the rights of American citizens are protected,” he said.
Lovitky told WND that he personally raised the issue with the Delta CEO Richard Anderson when he discovered the plan while making travel arrangements. He said Anderson didn’t respond, but Kathy M. Johnston, a coordinator for the airline’s “Customer Care” did write a letter. She blamed the plan to discriminate on Saudi Arabian requirements and said Lovitky should consult the State Department.
“Delta must also comply with all applicable laws in every country it serves and by the same token passengers are responsible to obtain the necessary travel documents required for entry into another country prior to their day of travel,” she wrote. “If a passenger travels without proper documents, the passenger may be denied entry into that country and our airline may be fined. Delta assumes responsibility for ensuring that each passenger boarding our aircraft has the proper documents for travel to their ticketed destination.”
“Delta Air Lines acted in a purely voluntary manner in agreeing to this alliance with Saudi Airlines,” he wrote in a letter asking the Delta board to act on the matter. “Accordingly, Delta has made itself responsible for ensuring that passengers on any flight jointly operated with Saudi Airlines will not be subject to discrimination on the basis of their gender, religion, or any other inappropriate grounds.”
The restrictions could include clothing requirements for women and banning passengers from “carrying and reading religious literature of their choice.” “This includes, but is not limited to, both Christian and Jewish sacred texts, such as the Old Testament and the New Testament, as well as any objects that reflect their religion, such as a cross necklace,” Lovitky said.
But Lovitky pointed out to Delta that Congress recently considered a plan to address Saudi Arabia’s discrimination, noting the government there confirms visas will not be issued for an Israeli passport holder or a passport that has an Israeli arrival/departure stamp, “those who don’t abide by the Saudi traditions concerning appearance and behaviors” and “Jewish People.”
“Delta is prohibited from engaging in religious discrimination by a variety of state and federal laws, as well as its own Code of Ethics,” he wrote. “However, Delta would be directly involving itself in the most heinous form of religious discrimination if it were to enter into any code share or other reciprocal travel arrangements with any airline which refuses boarding to individuals of specific religious persuasions.
“I urge Delta to shun any reciprocal travel arrangements with Saudi Arabian Airlines until the government of Saudi Arabia provides assurances that persons who acknowledge being Jewish on their visa applications will be granted visas.” He also was upset that Delta’s response to a followup letter was to say, “we respectfully consider this matter closed and we will not be responding to this matter again.”