Delta Airlines Doesn’t Hate Jews

I wasn’t going to comment on the recent kerfuffle over Saudi Arabian Airlines joining Skyteam, it seemed pretty silly and Wandering Aramean and One Mile at a Time already covered the issue quite well.

But the story is still circulating, I’m incensed at the silliness being repeated on this morning’s news shows, and which completely miss the point.

Huffington Post carried a piece claiming that Delta discriminates against Jews because Saudi Arabian is joining the alliance of which Delta is a member. Saudi Arabia won’t provide visas to anyone with an Israeli stamp in their passport (though of course one can get a secondary passport to circumvent this problem, or avoid the permanent stamp in the first place).

Saudi Arabia is a particularly oppressive regime, as are many Middle Eastern governments. And Timatic contains the following information on admittance:

– Visitors holding passports containing any Israeli visa or
stamp could be refused entry.

Delta doesn’t fly to Saudi Arabia. But they will partner with the country’s national airline, making it easier for passengers to buy through-travel. Delta is required to follow the entry rules of the country to which passengers are flying. As are other airlines that fly to Saudi Arabia, and plenty of other airlines partner with airlines that do as well. Lufthansa, for instance, flies daily to Riyadh and partners with United/Continental and with US Airways. So does Star Alliance member British Midland. And Turksih. And EgyptAir. These airlines are subject to the same rules and behave exactly the same way.

And in fact, the government of Saudi Arabia is hardly unique in its requirements. Here’s what Timatic says about entry to the United Arab Emirates:

Holders of passports containing an Israeli visa or stamp
must obtain clearance through the C.I.D. (Crime
Investigation Dept.) upon arrival.

American just this week announced a new partnership with Abu Dhabi-based Etihad. Which offers non-stop flights to the U.S. (American’s joint business venture partner British Airways flies to Saudi Arabia as well.)

Until recently, United and Continental partnered with Emirates, which also offers non-stop flights to the U.S.

The U.S., by the way, offers special rights to Saudi Arabian Airlines to continue its Jeddah – New York flight on to Washington Dulles (it cannot carry passengers solely between DC and New York). And it allows special rights to Kuwaiti Airlines to fly New York JFK – London, in other words flights between the US and a country other than the airline’s home country .. out of a slot-controlled airport, no less.

There is plenty of reasonable outrage at the practices of Saudi Arabia, and at other oppressive regimes. But the locus of outrage, it seems to me, ought to be at (1) those regimes directly and (2) at the U.S. government for accommodating those regimes.

Plenty of people will argue that the current government of Saudi Arabia is much more liberal, and much more friendly towards the U.S., than what we would get otherwise. And that’s a reasonable argument to have. But it doesn’t seem like it’s an argument to have with Delta, which clearly isn’t anti-semitic.

Delta seems to be the frequent target of misplaced public outrage (and some that’s justified). In this case, though, the beef seems with the government rather than the airline… which after all allows Saudi Arabian Airlines to fly to the U.S..

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “Plenty of people will argue that the current government of Saudi Arabia is much more liberal, and much more friendly towards the U.S., than what we would get otherwise.”

    For their survival, the monarchy accepts the barbaric rules imposed by the Islamic clergy and their export of the super fundamentalist ‘Wahabi’ theology, which spawns terrorism. But, in view of the fact that we need their oil, what choice do we have, other than to accept whatever they do. It is complex/messy situation. Delta is playing by the rules and running a business for its shareholders, just like our federal govt. is running the business of meeting the needs of its the citizens. BTW, there is a big uproar only when there is a real or perceived disadvantage for travel to the middle east for Jews, rest of the religious/ethnic groups be damned.

  2. @ Ram I’m with you except that I disagree with the unitary importance of oil in the relationship… until you make this silly statement “BTW, there is a big uproar only when there is a real or perceived disadvantage for travel to the middle east for Jews, rest of the religious/ethnic groups be damned.”

    (1) Saudi Arabia hasn’t historically denied visas to Christians the same way they have to Jews

    (2) The current uproar isn’t uniquely Jewish, much of the current complaints are about Saudi Arabia’s unwillingness to permit Christian bibles into the country.

    So while the first part of your comment contains some wisdom, the end of your comment really underminds your credibility and suggests a good bit of ignorance.

  3. This is not a decision by U.S.-based Delta, but by the SkyTeam, an alliance that includes Air France-KLM and Korean Air, and the decision to add the Saudi airline was voted on by 14 airlines in four continents. Even with the addition, Delta has no current plans to fly its aircraft to Saudi Arabia, and therefore could not prevent any passengers, Jewish or otherwise, from flying there.

  4. @Ryan in a certain amount of fairness, Delta DID vote to bring Saudi Arabian into Skyteam. So saying others made the decision too isn’t the most persuasive argument IMHO.

  5. @Gary It goes to show the monumental misunderstanding the media has with this agreement. They took this byte and painted a picture of Delta reps turning away Jews at the departing gate dressed in Nazi uniforms. That’s clearly not the case.

    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. Trying to explain that to someone not familiar with the term is useless. They just don’t get it.

    The reality is that Delta does not operate service to Saudi Arabia and does not codeshare with any airline on flights to that country. Delta does not intend to codeshare or share reciprocal benefits, such as frequent flier benefits, with Saudi Arabian Airlines, which can be confirmed with SkyTeam.

    Its also important to note that 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.

  6. Major media outlets across the United States are publishing stories that say the Internet and mainstream coverage about Saudi Arabia travel policies included unfair criticism of airlines.

    1. “‘Delta has been unfairly singled out,’ says travel expert Henry Harteveldt, a Jewish American and a vice president of Forrester Research. ‘We may find a lot of Saudi Arabia’s policies unpleasant and not agree with them, but any airline flying into any country is obliged to act by the rules of that country,’” USA Today reported.

    Joe Brancatelli, a business travel columnist for, said in the same story that “criticism of Delta’s SkyTeam relationship with Saudi Arabian Airlines may have been blown out of proportion, and Delta may have been the victim of misinformation.”

    The headline to Scott McCartney’s blog in The Wall Street Journal said “Blame Saudi Arabia, Not Delta.”

    “There have been so many stories running around websites accusing Delta Air Lines of banning Jews from flights to Saudi Arabia that it’s worth clarifying. … ” McCartney said in his “Middle Seat” column. “It would be the same on Lufthansa or British Airways or Air France flights to Riyadh, or for that matter on their U.S. code-sharing partners – United, US Airways or American. Without a visa, American won’t board you for a flight to London if your ticket connects you to Saudi Arabia. In terms of airline policy, there’s nothing new.”

    A story by The Associated Press offered a similar explanation.

    “Saudi Arabia decides who gets in the country and who doesn’t, not the airlines. Delta doesn’t even fly there. Because Saudi Arabian Airlines is becoming a member of SkyTeam, Delta was singled out in reports that ran Thursday and were passed around social media. U.S. carriers already partner with other airlines that fly to Saudi Arabia, including Air France and the German airline Lufthansa.”

  7. @Gary
    When I agree with you, I am wise and when I disagree, I lose credibility? 🙂 Come on Gary!
    The Delta related issue has nothing to do with the import of bibles. That is one of the many long standing beefs we have with the Saudi monarchy, who, for their survival, must surrender to the will of the ‘Wahabi’ clergy. Oil is the ONLY reason Saudi Arabia means anything to the non-muslim world, and the ONLY reason we turn a blind eye towards their misdeeds. Without oil, it would be another meaningless, terror exporting desert theocracy.
    BTW, I respect your opinion and hold you in high esteem, even when you disagree with me. Based on our experiences and our world view, our antennas are tuned to slightly different frequencies. If they were not, we would always be back slapping each other.

  8. I have flown on Royal Jordanian, Qatar, Gulf, Emirates, Etihad, Kuwait Air with my kipah, Israel passport stamps. I have prayed on their planes and in their lounges with my tefillin. I have had flight attendants (ex-pats from Europe I presume) welcome me and speak to me in Hebrew. And I have not had one average person ever say an unkind word or give uncomfortable stare.

  9. While Delta is certainly not anti-semetic, they made a huge error in judgment. They approved full membership into their alliance for an airline owned by a government that has the worst human rights record in the region along with Syria and is among the worst in the world.

  10. @Ram it was my polite way of calling you out for a pretty anti-semitic remark which was, I believe, based on faulty understanding. 🙂

  11. What do you think would happen now if Skyteam invited El Al to join their alliance?


  12. @LIH Prem Umm, El Al would decline? 🙂 For what it’s worth you’ll shortly be able to combine Etihad and El Al on an American Airlines partner award itinerary..

  13. Certainly one could make the case that Israel is an “oppressive state” to Palestinians!

  14. “Gary said,

    @Ram it was my polite way of calling you out for a pretty anti-semitic remark which was, I believe, based on faulty understanding. :)”

    Bravo, Gary!

  15. @beaubo
    Do you plan to fly SAA now? Lets see if we can raise some skypesos to organize a minyan on SAA 🙂

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