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Saturday, July 02, 2011

Did Delta get a bum rap?

Shavua tov v'Chodesh tov - a good week and a good month to everyone.

I am sure you all recall the recent uproar over Delta Airlines allowing Saudi Arabian Airlines to join its Sky Miles program. USA Today has written an article sympathetic to Delta, which claims that they got a bum rap (Hat Tip: Racquel R).
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.

On Friday, Republican Sen. Mark Kirk said he wrote to the Federal Aviation Administration to ask for an investigation into whether Delta "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."

Delta said on Friday that it does not discriminate, and pointed out that it doesn't fly to Saudi Arabia or codeshare with any airline that does. It said it does not plan to codeshare with Saudi Arabian Airlines. (A codeshare is when an airline places its flight designator, or "code," onto a flight operated by a different airline. The arrangement allows airlines to sell tickets on each other's flights.) Delta does have what's called an "interline agreement" with Saudi Arabian Airlines, which allows tickets to be sold that include multiple airlines for multiple legs of the trip.

Earlier this month Delta faced a public outcry after two soldiers complained in a video posted on YouTube that their unit returning from Afghanistan was charged $200 each to check a fourth bag. Delta ended up changing its baggage policy to allow four bags for free for troops in coach.
It has been pointed out to me that American's program now includes Etihad Airlines, which is the airline of Abu Dhabi, which also allegedly does not admit Jews or other people who have been to Israel. American's program also includes Royal Jordanian, which does allow Israelis to fly to Jordan.

It has also been pointed out to me that both Lufthansa (which is in United's Mileage Plus program) and Air France (which I believe is also in Sky Miles) both fly to Saudi Arabia, and that Delta is one of three US airlines (US Air and Continental are the others) who fly to Israel from the US. (For the record, American code shared briefly with El Al in late 2008 but was forced to stop when the FAA declared Ben Gurion Airport unsafe. American cannot fly to Israel itself because of the way in which it purchased TWA's route system. TWA used to fly here).

I also know several people who have visited both Israel and Saudi Arabia (and for that matter, Israel and the Emirates - one of which is Abu Dhabi). I do not know many Israelis who have done so, and I know Americans who carry two separate passports - one for Israel and one for the Arab world.

So is this blown out of proportion? I'd certainly prefer to see Saudi Arabia isolated (I don't know of any other country in the world that routinely confiscates non-Muslim religious articles) until they can treat non-Muslims normally. But I don't think accusations that Delta is anti-Israel are warranted.

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