Friday, June 24, 2011

Delta, Delta, Delta Needs Some Helpa, Helpa, Helpa: Code Share w/ Saudi Arabia Airlines is Indefensible

Delta Air Lines recently announced that Jews and Israelis (or passengers carrying any non-Islamic article of faith) will not be able to fly code-share flights from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia under the airline's new partnership with Saudi Arabian Airlines that is set to begin in 2012.

The bone-headed move is generating a firestorm of negative PR for Delta (which will probably force the airline to rescind the policy) and a stream of correspondence to the U.S. State Department from concerned citizens--regardless of religious affiliation.

I am opposed to the U.S. entering an "open skies" agreement with Saudi Arabia so long as that government maintains its policy of not allowing entry into Saudi Arabia of any American citizen who is either:
1) of the Jewish faith; or
2) has an Israeli exit or entrance stamp in his/her passport.
Saudi Arabia currently maintains both of these patently discriminatory prohibitions.

If Saudi Arabia or some other country had a visa policy that prohibited the entry of, say, Black American citizens, the State Department would never countenance entering a "open skies" agreement with a country that maintained such a patently discriminatory policy. Indeed, I would think the U.S. Government would not even allow the airline of that country to operate at all the United States, much less to do so with all the advantages of a "open skies" agreement.

Perhaps certain people in the U.S. State Department who administer such affairs believe that Jewish American citizens can be treated differently and that discrimination against them by a country like Saudi Arabia is acceptable merely because it is part of the Saudi "visa policy."

The U.S. State Department must act immediately to insist that Saudi Arabia abandon its two discriminatory prohibitions as a condition of enjoying all the advantages of a "open skies" agreement with the U.S. Now that the dispute has become public, it is up to Secretary Hillary Clinton to take the lead on pressuring Saudi Arabia to reverse these offensive discriminatory prohibitions.

In a statement to Religion News Service on Thursday (June 23), Delta said it "does not discriminate, nor do we condone discrimination against any protected class of passenger in regards to age, race, nationality, religion, or gender."

Cowering behind the statement that it is adhering to the visa policies of Saudi Arabia, Delta's stance is hypocritical, feckless and indefensible. With the airline now publicly accused of implementing a "no-Jew fly policy", it's only a matter of time until the U.S. public forces the airline to do what the U.S. State Department should have done as soon as it learned of the proposed Sky Team Alliance agreement.