Thursday, June 23, 2011

Delta Adopts Saudi Arabian Airlines No Jew Policy

For a long time in Michigan, Northwest Airlines had its hub at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. That meant an essential monopoly on domestic flights in and out of Detroit. 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 the Delta to ban Jews and holders of Israeli passports from boarding flights to Saudi Arabia. The partnership was originally announced by Delta Airlines in a press release on January 10, 2011.

World Net Daily reported that this issue was "first was presented to Congress, the public and others by talk radio host and former U.S. Rep. Fred Grandy, whose own battle against discrimination was documented when his former radio station demanded he tone down criticism of Islam on his program. He then left the station."

The article included correspondence from 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 issue here is one of principle. Delta isn't being forced to include Saudi Arabian Airlines into its Sky Team Alliance. In fact, Delta could stand on principle and refuse to include Saudi Arabian Airlines based on its discriminatory policy. No, it's not Delta's fault that the Saudi government is anti-Semitic, but it doesn't have to go along with it. It's as if the Saudis are telling Delta that when it comes to Jewish passengers its name should become an acronym: "Don't Even Let Them Aboard."

I know I'm not the only one who finds it troubling that Delta would go along with Saudi Arabia's policy of not allowing Jews on their flights. While I'm not planning a vacation to Riyadh any time soon, I would have a hard time flying with Delta knowing they are collaborating with the discriminatory government of Saudi Arabia.

The American Center for Law and Justice has already taken up this issue and I have no doubt that organizations like the Anti-Defamation League will not be far behind. I fly Delta a lot, both domestically and internationally. In fact, I've flown Delta flights to and from Israel twice in the past four years. Each time I arrive to my destination with Delta, I hear a flight attendant thank the passengers by saying, "We know you have a choice when you fly so thank you for choosing Delta." However, that's not entirely true. Here in Michigan, we often don't have much of a choice when we fly. It's usually Delta or nothing.

I have no doubt that this matter will not quietly go away. The Jewish community will not feel comfortable flying Delta knowing about its new association with Saudi Arabian Airlines.

Clarification: Delta Airlines is not changing any policies. Delta claims they do not discriminate and I concur. The issue here is that they have welcomed an airline (Saudi Arabian Airlines) that does discriminate into their global partnership (SkyTeam). Finally, Delta does not own the Sky Team alliance. SkyTeam is a global airline alliance (founded by Delta Airlines and a few other airlines) that provides customers from member airlines access to an extensive global network with more destinations, more frequencies and more connectivity.


Jeff said...

This may be true, but I would feel more secure if you got it from a source that was not so politicized to begin with. Seems to me worth looking for a second, independent source before putting this out there.

Remember the dog stoned in Jerusalem.

Anonymous said...

The last I checked, American, Us Air, United, Spirit, Frontier....etc all serve DTW. Therefore you do have a choice. They may not have a direct flight, or the ticket may cost more, but again you have a choice!

Denise said...

Oy. We're on the no-chai list :(

Denise said...

Oy-we're on the no-chai list.

Rabbi Jason Miller said...

Not so fast Jeff. The story on the dog might be true. Read this and stay tuned:

Rabbi Jason Miller said...

USA Today's Faith and Reason blog quotes Delta's response to this "rumor" here.

Anonymous said...

That will put delta on my no fly list! I can always find another airline and I will. I support Israel and this will be another way to do so! Boycott delta.

Flying With Fish said...

Dear Rabbi Miller,

Your blog post, which also appeared on The Huffington Post not only targets an airline that does not now, nor has any plans to, fly its own aircraft to Saudi Arabia ... your post also posts some significant facts in general about the rules and regulations of international visas as they pertain to travel to Saudi Arabia.

As a Jew who covers the airline industry, I read your article and was bewildered by your lack of research and improper quotations of a Delta spokesperson.

I have countered your post by writing this
Delta “No Jews” Policy – Could This Story Be More Wrong? -



machinegunfodder said...

Joel Ungar said...

See Delta's blog post on the subject at

Rabbi Jason Miller said...

Here's my response to Steven Frischling at the Flying with Fish blog:

A few points of clarification.

1) Delta is a founding member of the SkyTeam Alliance and is the one who is sending out press releases welcoming Saudi Arabian Airlines into that alliance. In fact, Delta is excited about this partnership because it's good for business.

2) My argument (I am clear on my blog) is that Delta Airlines (which operates a hub 30 minutes from my home) is "getting into bed" with an Airline that has a policy of not allowing travelers to board without a visa from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. That Kingdom does not allow individuals with an Israeli stamp on its passport to get a visa. It also doesn't allow Jewish people to get a visa (it asks for religion in its visa application).

3) Are there Jews who have traveled to Saudi Arabia on business? Yes. They make exceptions for businessmen who are doing work there -- it benefits the Kingdom.

4) Saudi Arabia does ask for religion on its 18 hour transit visa app, and they explicitly stated years ago that they ban "Jewish people." They removed it from their website after criticism.

5) Here's a link to Kathy Johnston's letter (representing Delta Customer Service). If you think I misquoted Ms. Johnston's letter, just read the letter in its entirety here:

6) Just because other airlines have a similar policy doesn't make it right.

7) Even if Delta doesn't actually fly to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, they give Sky Miles to an airline that does. That's a partnership.

Rabbi Jason Miller said...

Not so fast Jeff. The story on the dog might be true. Read this and stay tuned. By the way, I did check my sources.

Rabbi Jason Miller said...

Here is Rabbi Barry Leff's letter to Delta. He's a rabbi but in the hi-tech field and travels all the time on Delta.

Rabbi PW said...

Called Delta and they read their statement. The representative got annoyed at me for calling.

Finally asked him where I could write a letter, after insisting that I was not calling Delta
discriminatory and his insistence that everything on the internet was "all lies" and "made up."

PO BOX 20980
ATTN: corporate customer care
dept 980
atlanta, ga 30320

Joe G. said...

I've always thought the "We know you have a choice...." speech annoying too. Come to think of it, LOTS of what is said and done on planes is annoying, in general, not to mention the amazing pre-flight hassle. No, Anonymous, we don't have a choice. Flying is a pain in the *** thanks to 9-11.

Anonymous said...

There seem to be a number of degrees separating Delta from the discriminatory policy.

Everyone seems to agree that the Saudi government denies visas to many Jews based on religion.

No airline can let people on a flight to Saudi Arabia(or any other country) without a visa. They have no control over the policies all they can do is refuse to fly there and Delta does not. SAI does check visas on flights to Saudi Arabia but no one has yet asserted that they discriminate on flights not going to Saudi Arabia (I am not sure that they do have any such flights). Are we going to condemn airlines that do business with any airline flying to Saudi Arabia?

Perhaps SAI is particularly odious because it is the national airline, then are we going to condemn all banks that work with Saudi owned banks via SWIFT, the international banking clearinghouse?

The entire thing has been blown out of proportion and crying wolf like this will only serve to pull attention away from truly discriminatory practices.

Anonymous said...

RE: No. 3 in your 11:10 a.m. post. Now you acknowledge that Jews travel to Saudi Arabia on business. So there is no ban on Jews traveling to KSA. Is that correct? Perhaps it's best that you add an update to your post stating you were wrong about the "No Jews" policy as well as correct your HuffPost piece that is spreading this factual inaccuracy. You have a responsibility to set the record straight.

Benny said...

Before we condemn an airline for doing business with an anti-semite country like Saudi Arabia we should stop buying their oil. When that happens there will be no reason to fly there anyway.

Rabbi Jason Miller said...

Here's the official press release from the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington:

Saudi Arabia denies rumors regarding travel restrictions on US citizens
June 24, 2011

Saudi Arabia Embassy denied news reports being circulated on the Internet regarding restriction on US travellers to the Kingdom.

"Rumors being circulated via the Internet regarding passenger flight restrictions on Saudi Arabian Airlines are completely false. The Government of Saudi Arabia does not deny visas to U.S. citizens based on their religion," the embassy said in a statement issued today.


Anonymous said...

fly Southwest, I too live in Metro Detroit, and SWA is in my opinion the best bang for the buck (plus they were just rated the best airline by a major poll).

Anonymous said...

Saudi Arabia is also a country that persecutes LGBT people and imprisons women for having the temerity to drive an automobile. Yet the supposed 'land of the free' is prepared to overlook this in the name of oil. I guess it just shows how weak the USA in reality is.

Anonymous said...


such amazing possibilities for change said...

does El Al allow Arab and Muslim passengers?

such amazing possibilities for change said...

does EL AL have a policy for no one can fly from Saudi Or no ARABS or Muslims may fly El AL?

CGantner said...

when this nonsense end... its a 5000 year old hatfield and McCoy war...
Delta should not be making any deals with Saudi Arabia with its Anti-Semitic policy. Until religious bias stops there will never be peace.

Anonymous said...

Please keep in mind that Delta is a member of SkyTeam - it does not control or own it. It does not, by itself, have veto power over any new alliance member joining. If you are so indignate about this, you should also mention that American, United, Continental and US Air are also in the same 'boat'. And all you folks that want to boycott, guess you're never going to fly internationally ever again. Because ALL international airlines must abide by these rules - like them or not.

Rabbi Jason Miller said...

Regarding the last comment by Anonymous: I acknowledge that other airlines "do it too" and that Delta is not the only member of the SkyTeam alliance (obviously).

Read this post and you'll see my explanation and elaboration: Updated blog post

Anonymous said...

I do believe that a significant number of educated, ie most Jewish people have an understanding of business principles and one of enhancing one's opportunities to expand generating more profits.
I also believe that Jewish people understand, appreciate and respect and willingly obey the laws of their domiciles.
If one is to do business where the prevailing laws conflict with one or more laws governing the business's controlling domicile, then the company must confir with the authorities governing it to see if a violation of those deviations constitutes an offense and then either the law must be changed or compliance would be in order.
It seems that with all the legal advice, etc. available, these matters have already been attended to for progress to conclude.
As to the moral issues, one must again search to the intellectual component of our gift of mind, to resolve the business component of these actions to see the multifaceted benefits to business owners, as well for society when the globe can be, as intended, to be available to all who desire and can identify reliable safety as another prime ingredient to motivate one's actions.
There are issues in this questionable activity that presents obvious safety issues for life threatening potentials. Based on that premise, one may recognize the need for such a business arrangement.
It is our human responsibility to think deeply on some issues that requre a lot of peripheral thinking to come to the successful conclusion called "understanding". From here we will evolve. Those with the greater power to "understand" need to share with those less able if we will perpetuate society for positive development. These are the things that make up our time, ie. days, weeks, years. As once said, "Rome was not built in a day"
exists as cliche' because it means something relevant.
Good luck with your thinking. Try to look at an opposing side's perspective. Diligence will be rewarded.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article, as a liberal British Muslim who went on a nice holiday to Israel with my Christian girlfriend, I have to say I learnt a thing or two about discrimination when I had to fly to Tel Aviv with El Al. The assumption I was a terrorist was so ingrained the following happened -
1)I was denied the option of hand luggage while the rest of the jewish people with more hand luggage than I had were allowed to keep theirs.
2)I could not have my two phones with me. I was allowed only one and the other was checked into my luggage on my behalf. The idiot who actually checked it in forgot to switch it off after he rummaged through my personal details on my phone. He left the phone on this stupid idiot thereby inadvertently putting our lives at rick - both Jewish and non-jewish if we are to believe we must switch off all radio devices.
3)I could not use my normal over the ears headphones because according to the guy, it could contain a bomb.
4)I actually had my jacket taken away from me to be checked in as well into my luggage but it was returned after I started protesting loudly about the treatment I was receiving for no apparent reason - obviously because I was muslim or should we say because they say my frist name was a muslim name. He proceeded to return my jacket with the statement, I don't know what you need a jacket for Tel Aviv is very warm. to which I responded, yes but it is a night flight and it is extremely cold on flights during overnight flights. Mutual silence.
5) Oh then finally, the humiliating search. The humiliating search I was subject to. Oh the humiliating search. Had to drop my pants, had various devices run over me, remove shoes, socks so the guy could search inbetween my toes.
6) Never ending questions but that I could handle.

Now you sit there on your silly high horse making claims that Saudi Arabia has been allowed to join a coalition of flights and it supposedly does not allow Jews in. Well I have an Israeli immigration stamp on my British passport now and I could not give two hoots. I already know I might be allowed into Saudi Arabia, all that I do not care.
But what I do care about it you do not sit there whining about it when Israel does the exact thing with the way Muslims wherther staunch or not are treated at your borders. The discrimmination goes both ways and I do not condone either of it.
Just something for you to be aware off before making claims of yet another oh look they are attacking Jews again.

This whole rubbish goes both ways. The Israeli immigration are well aware of what Muslims are subject to coming into Israel so lets not play dumb. I was subject to it going in and out of Israel and it really ruined my holiday experience of such a beautiful country.
In my opinion Saudi and Israel do this tit for tat. The only way forward is to actually resolve the differences if not people like me who do not cat about religion get caught up in your little spites. I am sure there are Jewish people out there who have been subject to something like I have been subject to while entering Saudi as well.

PS: I totally recommend visiting Tel Aviv. Lovely lovely city.

Melissa said...

That is sickening to me!Have the Jews and Jewish nation not been through enough?!! Now you know if the shoe was on the other foot & we did this to Muslims it would be a Holy War!!! I will never ever fly Delta Air & I hope they go bankrupt!!!!
Remember the stern warning from God regarding Israel & it's people...."I will bless those who bless you & curse those who curse you" May the God of Zion our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ forgive such arrogant & hateful behavior towards his chosen people & may the Jews continue to be blessed and under HIS wings of protection!
Melissa, Christian, lover of Israel & its chosen people the Jews. More power to the Jewish people, I love you & pray for you always!! :O)

Anonymous said...

If you don't like Saudi ababian airlines or Deltas policy Dont fly with them. Everyone has a view, everyone is intitled to their view (right or wrong). What right has anyone deny someone a view.
I fly on airlines that give me best value and dont worry about the politics of business. If we all looked more at ourselves instead of focusing on others the world would be a better place


Liberal Bias  said...

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Anonymous said...

I'm an F/A who flew commercial charter military flights into Saudi Arabia during Gulf War One.... The U.S. Military charter contractor asked my company not to put any Jewish crew on those flights, at the request of the Saudis. To their credit, and after my protest to the "suits," my employers ignored this request.