The Federal Aviation Administration has been asked to investigate, the Saudi Arabian government is denying it discriminates against Jews, and Delta Air Lines is getting incinerated by critics on its own website as the dispute over the airline’s plans for a cooperative program that would ban Jews from certain flights heated white-hot today.
WND reported two days ago on the plan to have Saudi Arabian Airlines join the SkyTeam Alliance with Delta, a move that would require the American carrier to ban Jews and holders of Israeli passports from boarding flights from New York or Washington bound for Jeddah.
Now at least two legal organizations are reviewing the possibility of legal action, and Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., reported he wrote to FAA Administrator J. Randolph Babbit requesting an investigation to determine “whether Delta violated American law.”
“I request your investigation into this matter to determine whether Delta Air Lines violated U.S. law or regulation and to ensure no U.S. citizen is denied their right to fly solely on the basis of their religion,” Kirk told the agency. “Since a core mission of the FAA is to promote civil aviation, I would expect the FAA to use its full statutory and regulatory power to ensure that America’s civil airways are not restricted for persons regardless of faith.”
Colby M. May, director and senior counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, told WND his organization was researching U.S. law, precedents and the status of Delta’s arrangement to determine whether there has been discrimination in matters of public accommodation.
Ultimately, he said, he would suggest to the airline, “Don’t do it. Listen to your better angels … Whatever the new apartheid looks like you need to stand against it.”
The argument will come down to Delta recognizing it should not put itself in the position of implementing discrimination against U.S. citizens on American soil, he said.
Whether the organization launches any legal challenge to the airline remains for a future decision, May confirmed. But another attorney, Larry Klayman, founder of the government watchdog Judicial Watch and now of Freedom Watch USA, was succinct.
“I, for one, will sue Delta Air Lines,” he told WND. “This is outrageous, repugnant and illegal.”
He said Delta has joined President Obama in “kowtowing” to “nefarious Muslims.”
His reference was to the famous image of Barack Obama greeting the Saudi king with a bow.
Obama bowing to Saudi Arabian leader
The airline maintained its position that any discrimination is required by Saudi law, and it has nothing to do with the airline, even though the restrictions would be imposed by the airline on American citizens at American airports.
“First and foremost, I think one of the most important things to mention here is that Delta does not discriminate nor do we condone discrimination against anyone in regards to age, race, nationality, religion, or gender,” said an airline blog statement by Trebor Banstetter of the Delta Media Team.
“We, like all international airlines, are 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, and we’re responsible for making sure that you have the proper documentation before you board.”
The airline did not respond to a WND request to answer questions.
Banstetter’s statement continued, “Some have raised questions about whether Saudi Arabian Airlines’ membership in SkyTeam means Delta is adopting any type of policies that could present barriers to travel for some passengers, including Jewish customers. For this particular concern, 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.”
But the airline’s customers weren’t buying the story.
One participant in the Delta forum said, “You don’t condone it yet you gladly do business with the devil. These words are contradictory and empty. … Of course it is a traveler’s responsibility to obtain travel documents. This isn’t the point. This is a distraction from the argument. There is only one fact any of your customers need to know about this: You do condone this behavior, because Delta is going to make money in this deal.”
- From “pvoltz”: Your silly excuse is sickening. You should refuse to enter any relationship with any count[r]y in which it is illegal to carry a Bible openly. You make me sick!
- From Jacob Scharff: In a nutshell, you’re saying, ‘We didn’t make the laws that make it illegal for Jews to travel to Saudi Arabia. But, for the amount of money we’ll make servicing those routes, we’ll happily enforce those laws. And, we’ll enforce them by checking the paperwork of everyone on flights bound for Saudi Arabia, and if any of them are Jews, kicking them off of the flight.’ Sounds like a pretty weak argument. And, strangely familiar.
- From “aggiebrandi”: It is pretty offensive to me still that you skirted around the issue this way. … By partnering with an airline that so overtly does [discriminate] makes you just as guilty of it.
- From GregD: Will you be telling people they cannot wear crosses on planes going to Saudi Arabia? Will you be telling them they can’t bring Bibles? What, exactly are the responsibilities that Delta will be assuming by letting Saudi Arabian Airlines join SkyTeam?
- From Octopus: So, you’re ignoring your own complicity and blaming the Saudies? Real nice.
- From “weeznotflyin”: This is a pathetic excuse to justify Delta’s business venture with Saudi Arabain airlines…. Hypothetically speaking, with this reasoning, Delta would not have had any issues in respecting Nazi Germany’s laws against the Jewish people.
And those were just the first few of pages of comments.
The dispute even pulled the Saudi government into the fray:
“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 government said on PRNewswire.
“Liars,” said Pamela Geller on her Atlas Shrugs blog. She noted that on Delta’s own website is the statement, “The government of Saudi Arabia refuses admission and transit to nationals of Israel.”
Delta’s website also states, “Visitors holding passports containing any Israeli visa or stamp could be refused entry.”
At Jihad Watch, the dispute was spelled out in a statement attributed to Detroit rabbi Jason Miller, “The issue here is one of principle. Delta isn’t being forced to include Saudi Arabian Airlines into its SkyTeam Alliance. In fact, Delta could stand on principle and refuse to include Saudi Arabian Airlines based on its discriminatory policy.”
On that site’s forum page, from “desidude”, was: “This stinks to high heavens, since when are we now enforcing racist and discriminatory policies of a racist regime? Would anyone stand it if any country has a strict policy of not accepting Jewish travelers or black traveler[s] or Hindu travelers or Christian orthodox travelers? Heads should roll for this in the high offices of Delta airlines. If they uphold this I and my family are not using this airline.”
Added “duh_swami”: “Indifference to racism is racism … Making up excuses for racism, is also racism…Cooperating with racism, is racism … If Delta is not racist, it should stand on principal, as stated above, and reject it … If they refuse to do that they have condemned themselves…”
Raven Blackwolf added, “A business based in a free country has no reason to deal with a country whose laws and culture are inimical to its own home country, except for sheer greed. … The U.S. government DOES tell U.S. based companies where it can and cannot operate already – can Delta fly to Cuba under U.S. law? It’s about time that all Islamic countries were treated exactly like Cuba, actually. They deserve it a LOT more than Cuba _ever_ did.”
According to a Fox News radio report, Michael Salberg, chief of international affairs for the Anti-Defamation League, said Delta should not “be enabling” discrimination.
Delta set the dispute in motion in January when it announced it was supporting Saudi Arabian Airlines’ decision to join SkyTeam.
“Saudi Arabian’s growing hub in Riyadh and extensive network throughout the Middle East will bring Delta customers greater access to destinations across one of the world’s most important economic regions,” Charlie Pappas, Delta’s vice president-Alliances, said in the statement. “We are honored that Saudi Arabian has chosen to link its future growth and success with Delta and our SkyTeam partners, while bringing our alliance greater access to destinations across the Middle East.”
Delta boasted of the 35 new destinations that the move would include.
WND reported earlier the issue first was presented to Congress, the public and others by talk radio host and former U.S. Rep. Fred Grandy, whose engaged in his own battle against discrimination when his former radio station demanded he tone down criticism of Islam on his program. He then left the station.
Grandy and “Mrs. Fred,” – Catherine – recently were interviewed by Talk 1200 show host Jeff Katz about the controversy, which was described as “outrageous.”
Their conversation has been posted online as well as embedded:
“Creeping Shariah? Now [it is] jetspeed Shariah. Hat’s off to Delta. It looks like Delta will be the first Shariah-compliant airline in the United States,” Catherine Grandy said.
Katz noted, “As a Jewish man, I might not be able to fly on Delta Air Lines in the future.”
Fred Grandy told Katz that he spent time already this week in Washington briefing members of Congress and other policy makers “on this kind of threat.”
“This creeping Shariah, economic jihad, gets you everywhere you turn,” Catherine Grandy said. “This is just not right. I’m sure this will be tested.”
Fred Grandy said there were several questions raised by the controversy, including would passengers continue to fly on Delta, what should the government do and the advance of Shariah in the United States.
“If this isn’t one landing strip at a time, I don’t know what is,” he said.
The challenge to Delta was raised by Washington attorney Jeffrey Lovitky, who told WND that he personally brought up 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.”
Lovitky told WND that whatever discrimination the Saudis choose to enforce in their nation, it becomes a problem when Delta applies it to American citizens on American soil.
“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.”
He told WND he has not yet heard back from the board members he contacted, nor have specific action plans been adopted by the ACLJ. But he noted the other restrictions that could be forced on Americans at Washington’s Dulles airport and New York’s JFK.
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.
“You can imagine how foreign it is to our values as Americans,” he told WND. “To adhere to restrictions of this nature is extremely burdensome.
“This needs to be addressed in a way which is consistent with our Western values,” he said.
The plan apparently is proceeding through negotiations with a goal of having the Saudi airline aboard the Delta alliance in 2012. Delta’s website lists Aeroflot, AeroMexico, AirEuropa, Air France, Alitalia, China Southern, CSA Czech Airlines, Kenya Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Korean Air, TAROM and Vietnam Airlines as “SkyTeam Partners” already.
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.”