Israel National News on Friday wrote a report on articles appearing various news outlets saying, "Jews and Israelis, or passengers carrying any non-Islamic article of faith, will not be able to fly code-share flights from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia under Delta Air Line's new partnership with Saudi Arabian Airlines that is set to begin in 2012."
Delta responded to the articles in the outlets strongly, saying it "does not operate service to Saudi Arabia and does not codeshare with any airline on flights to that country."
Delta does, however, have a standard interline agreement with Saudi Air allowing passengers to book flights on Saudi carriers to the kingdom.
“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,” Delta said.
“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 and are subject to that country’s rules governing entry,” the statement clarified.
"Delta does not discriminate nor do we condone discrimination against anyone in regards to age, race, nationality, religion, or gender," the statement added.
The statement released by Delta on Friday did not note that making use of their interline agreement with carriers that do fly to Saudi Arabia requires customers to first qualify for a Saudi visa, or that passengers boarding flights to Saudi Arabia booked through their interline service would be barred from bringing non-Islamic religious articles.
"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," Trebor Barnstetter of the Delta Media Team wrote on Delta's corporate blog.
Colby M. May, senior counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice said his office is trying to determine if the agreement runs afoul of U.S. law.
“The very idea that there is a common carrier airline service that would deny an American citizen in America access to their services because they are Jewish or have religious items such as a yarmulke, a cross or a priestly collar, is deeply disturbing,” May said.
May said he is “trying to get answers” from Delta. “They have not responded in a way that answers the question,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll do so.”
Saudi Arabia maintains it " does not deny visas to U.S. citizens based on their religion," the Saudi embassy in Washington said in a terse statement released Friday.
However, the U.S. State Department travel advisory for Saudi Arabia said there have been reports by U.S. citizens that “they were refused a Saudi visa because their passports reflected travel to Israel or indicated that they were born in Israel.”
Saudi Arabia bars anyone from bringing into Saudi Arabia religious ritual objects, including religious texts, from any faith other than Islam, effectively banning religiously observant Jews from entering the country.