Delta Partnership With Saudi Air a Controversial Connection - NBC 6 South Florida

Delta Partnership With Saudi Air a Controversial Connection

The Saudi government-owned carrier does not allow anyone into Saudi Arabia, no matter their ethnicity or citizenship, if that person has an Israeli stamp on his or her passport

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    Delta Partnership With Saudi Air a Controversial Connection
    AP
    A Delta Airlines plane is shown at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle.

    Delta Airlines says the company does not discriminate against anyone. It's policy: if a passenger buys a ticket, passes through security, and follows the rules, they will be on the plane.

    But South Florida travelers and civil rights groups are up in arms over Delta's new alliance with Saudi Arabian Airlines through its Skyteam Network. As policy, the Saudi government-owned carrier does not allow anyone into Saudi Arabia, no matter their ethnicity or citizenship, if that person has an Israeli stamp on his or her passport.

    "Definitely...cause for concern," said Lonny Wilk, the Florida spokesman for the Anti-Defamation League, a 100-year-old civil rights group dedicated to fighting bigotry against any group.

    "We've sent a letter to the CEO of Delta telling him about our concerns. We've also reached out to other airlines as well because discrimination of this kind has no place in American business or trade."

    The ADL fears SAA's policy could leave passengers who are connecting from Delta to a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight stranded, denied entry onto a plane.

    "As a Jewish person, I should be able to fly into Saudi Arabia or anywhere else," says South Florida Delta passenger Michael Friedman. He says he has many Delta miles under his belt, but thinks partnering with the Saudi carrier reflects badly on Delta.

    "I question their judgement on this, absolutely," Friedman said.

    A rumor spread online this week following a pulled USA Today report that anyone trying to connect from a Delta flight to a Saudi Airlines flight would have non-Muslim religious items, like Bibles or crucifixes, confiscated

    The Saudi government denied the reports in a statement, claiming that it does not deny visas to U.S. citizens based on their religion.

    The statement did not mention entry denied to those with Israeli stamps on passports.

    Delta does not fly to Saudi Arabia, and says its business arrangement with the Saudis is standard in the industry, similar to the arrangements American Airlines, US Airways, and United Airlines made with the same Saudi airline. The Atlanta-based carrier will not count frequent flier miles for Saudi Arabian Airlines flights.

    While Delta cannot control the Saudi government's rules governing who is allowed to enter that country, the airline can certainly choose with whom it forms alliances, according to one South Florida traveler told NBCMiami at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Internatonal Airport.

    "I guess it's something that we need to be more educated on, who we're doing business with," said Lisa Angelbello, just before boarding a Delta flight.