American Jews, Israelis and anyone with religious paraphernalia may be kept off Delta flights traveling to Saudi Arabia from the United States under the rules of a new Delta SkyTeam partnership, USA Today reports. (UPDATE: USA Today has pulled their report entirely, making it possible that this was just a huge rumor. See below.) Delta’s deal with Saudi Arabian Airlines, announced in January, requires the American company to align with Saudi Arabia’s “strict Islamic law,” which says that anyone with an Israeli passport stamp be kept out, while every visitor requires a visa and a sponsor; all women must have a male sponsor. Bibles, crosses and any other “non-Islamic article of faith” can be confiscated. Delta maintains that it “does not discriminate, nor do we condone discrimination against any protected class of passenger in regards to age, race, nationality, religion, or gender,” but won’t really be more specific.
Religious groups are not having it.
“Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, should be strongly condemned for its despicable discrimination against Jews,” said a spokesperson for the American Jewish Committee, which is based in New York. “For an American company, our nation’s values should trump narrow business interests. Delta should be the first to reject Saudi airlines as a SkyTeam member.”
Update: The article on USA Today‘s website has been deleted. In its place is this message:
CLARIFICATION: An early version of this story contained incomplete information and has been removed.
Which isn’t very clarifying at all! The newspaper points toward its religion blog, which notes, “Jewish leader Rabbi Irwin Kula was wary about inflaming concerns on this, saying he knows many professionals who are very open about their Jewish religious identity who fly to Saudi Arabia all the time for business.”
In our comment section, a Delta representative writes:
Hello, this is Susan E. with Delta Air Lines. I’d first like to make it clear that Delta and our global workforce do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion or gender. We would never create a policy that promoted discrimination. As a global airline, we provide transportation to a diverse group customers from countries throughout the world. We do so directly and through partnerships (we do not currently offer service into Saudi Arabia ourselves). Along with this, these countries have various laws and visa requirements that we must follow. If you would like to learn more about this issue, I encourage you to visit our blog.