Delta Embroiled in "No Jewish Passengers" Controversy

| by Kate Wharmby Seldman

Delta Airlines' partnership with Saudi Arabian Airlines, and the possibility that the airline may now ban Jewish people who want to fly to Saudi Arabia, is setting the Internet alight with outrage.

But has there been a misunderstanding? Delta says yes.

USA Today and the Huffington Post both published articles on the controversy, yet both media outlets have been forced to remove or alter their work. In Rabbi Jason Miller's HuffPo opinion piece, he said it was "especially troubling to learn that Delta will add Saudi Arabian Airlines to its SkyTeam Alliance of partnering companies and would require Delta to ban Jews and holders of Israeli passports from boarding flights to Saudi Arabia."

USA Today later removed its article. In place of it is this message: "CLARIFICATION: An early version of this story contained incomplete information and has been removed." There's also a link to a different article titled "Airline on Jewish Rumor: 'Delta does not discriminate'." The article contains a statement from Delta containing the sentence, "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."

Meanwhile, Huffpo changed its headline in another news piece (not written by Rabbi Miller): An editor's note at the foot of that story said: An earlier headline for this story, "U.S. Jews Not Able To Fly On Delta Flights To Saudi Arabia," was changed to more accurately reflect the nature of the controversy.

Senator Mark Kirk wrote to the FAA, saying "I am deeply concerned by the June 23, 2011, report in USA Today entitled 'US Jews may not be able to fly on Delta flights to Saudi Arabia. According to the report, Delta Airlines may have entered into an agreement with Saudi Arabia that prohibits Americans of the Jewish faith from flying solely on the basis of their religion."

The FAA told MSNBC that it wouldn't be handling the controversy: instead, the Department of Transportation would be looking into it. Senator Kirk is also opening his own investigation into the situation.

Saudi Arabian Airlines so far has no comment.

The rest of Delta Airlines' statement is as follows: "Delta Airlines does not discriminate nor do we condone discrimination against any of our customers in regards to age, race, nationality, religion, or gender."

"Delta does not operate service to Saudi Arabia and does not codeshare with any airline that serves that country. Delta does not intend to codeshare or share reciprocal benefits, such as frequent flier benefits, with Saudi Arabian Airlines, which we have confirmed with SkyTeam, an Amsterdam-based 14-member global airline alliance.

"Delta’s only agreement with Saudi Arabian Airlines is a standard industry interline agreement, which allows passengers to book tickets on multiple carriers, similar to the standard interline agreements American Airlines, US Airways and Alaska Airlines have with Saudi Arabian Airlines."

"All of the three global airline alliances – Star, which includes United Airlines; oneworld, which includes American Airlines, and SkyTeam, which includes Delta – have members that fly to Saudi Arabia and are subject to that country’s rules governing entry."