The question of whether or not Delta Airlines was enforcing a Saudi ban on Jewish passengers flying into that country was still unclear at the end of last week, as the controversy continued to simmer. But it wasn’t as if the airline hadn’t tried to put the issue to rest… three times.
The Delta brouhaha began in April when Jeffrey Lovitky, a Jewish attorney from Washington, asked Delta to clarify what Saudi Arabian Airlines’ membership in the Sky Team Alliance would mean for Jewish passengers. The alliance, and others of its ilk, makes it possible for U.S. airlines to book flights on other carriers. The problem was Delta’s response.
“While we fully understand and sympathize with your concerns. Delta has no control over the actions of the United States or any foreign country,” Kathy Johnston, a Delta customer care rep, wrote to Lovitky. “If the government of Saudi Arabia engages in discriminatory practices in the issuance of travel documents to U.S. citizens, this is a matter which must be addressed with a local embassy as appropriate or with the U.S. State Department.”
Wrong answer. Or at least it seemed so to the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, and a host of other Jewish leaders and organizations.
Soon, World Net Daily had picked up the story, as did Religion News Service, and Rabbi Jason Miller of Detroit who took Delta to task on the Huffington Post.
“No, it’s not Delta’s fault that the Saudi government is anti-Semitic, but it doesn’t have to go along with it,” he wrote.
That led Delta to issue a second statement stating that Delta “like all international airlines is required to comply with all applicable laws governing entry into every country we serve. You as passengers are responsible for obtaining the necessary travel documents, such as visas and certification of required vaccinations…”
In response, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) called for an investigation by the Federal Aviation Authority.
Which led to a third Delta statement, this time using the “everyone else is doing it” defense.
“All of the three global airline alliances – Star, which includes United Airlines; Oneworld, which includes American Airlines, and Sky Tem, which includes Delta – have members that fly to Saudi Arabia and are subject to that country’s rules governing entry.”
Miller didn’t like that defense. He likened it to something a fifth-grader might say when caught in the act.
Likewise, the ADL was unimpressed.
“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,” ADL said in a statement. “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 enables, or facilitates this discrimination, whatever the regulations of Saudi Arabia.”
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