Thursday, June 23, 2011

Delta adopts Saudi 'no-Jew' fly policy. Say WHAT?

WND Exclusive


Challenge to discrimination building as Congress, lawyers warned of plan

Verne Strickland Blogmaster /  June 24, 2011  12:20 AM
Article tip per Elizabeth Shikiar

Posted: June 22, 2011
8:34 pm Eastern

By Bob Unruh
© 2011 WND

Delta Air Lines' plan to add Saudi Arabian Airlines to its SkyTeam Alliance of partnering companies would require the American carrier to ban Jews and holders of Israeli passports from boarding flights from New York or Washington bound for Jeddah, prompting outraged accusations of illegal religious discrimination.

The issue, which has caught the attention of the American Center for Law and Justice already, was raised when Washington attorney Jeffrey Lovitky was perusing airline procedures for travel.

"As we learn more about the issue and facts, we are determined to ensure that American citizens do not face discrimination by airlines like Delta that are passenger code-sharing with Saudi Arabian Airlines," said Colby M. May, director and senior counsel of the ACLJ.

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"We will be communicating our position with members of Congress, the State Department and Delta Air Lines to ensure that the rights of American citizens are protected," he said.
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The issue first was presented to Congress, the public and others by talk radio host and former U.S. Rep. Fred Grandy, whose own battle against discrimination was documented when his former radio station demanded he tone down criticism of Islam on his program. He then left the station.
Grandy and "Mrs. Fred," – Catherine – recently were interviewed by Talk 1200 show host Jeff Katz about the controversy, which was described as "outrageous."
Their conversation has been posted online as well as embedded:

"Creeping Shariah? Now [it is] jetspeed Shariah. Hat's off to Delta. It looks like Delta will be the first Shariah-compliant airline in the United States," Catherine Grandy said.

Katz noted, "As a Jewish man, I might not be able to fly on Delta Air Lines in the future."

Fred Grandy told Katz that he spent time already this week in Washington briefing members of Congress and other policy makers "on this kind of threat."

"This creeping Shariah, economic jihad, gets you everywhere you turn," Catherine Grandy said. "This is just not right. I'm sure this will be tested."

Fred Grandy said there were several questions raised by the controversy, including would passengers continue to fly on Delta, what should the government do and the advance of Shariah in the United States.
"If this isn't one landing strip at a time, I don't know what is," he said.

Delta officials did not respond to a WND phone call asking for comment, but their sentiment is clear in letters they wrote to Lovitky when he complained about their plans.

Lovitky told WND that he personally raised the issue with the Delta CEO Richard Anderson when he discovered the plan while making travel arrangements. He said Anderson didn't respond, but Kathy M. Johnston, a coordinator for the airline's "Customer Care" did write a letter. She blamed the plan to discriminate on Saudi Arabian requirements and said Lovitky should consult the State Department.

"Delta must also comply with all applicable laws in every country it serves and by the same token passengers are responsible to obtain the necessary travel documents required for entry into another country prior to their day of travel," she wrote. "If a passenger travels without proper documents, the passenger may be denied entry into that country and our airline may be fined. Delta assumes responsibility for ensuring that each passenger boarding our aircraft has the proper documents for travel to their ticketed destination."

Lovitky told WND that whatever discrimination the Saudis choose to enforce in their nation, it becomes a problem when Delta applies it to American citizens on American soil.

"Delta Air Lines acted in a purely voluntary manner in agreeing to this alliance with Saudi Airlines," he wrote in a letter asking the Delta board to act on the matter. "Accordingly, Delta has made itself responsible for ensuring that passengers on any flight jointly operated with Saudi Airlines will not be subject to discrimination on the basis of their gender, religion, or any other inappropriate grounds."

Fred Grandy
He told WND he has not yet heard back from the board members he contacted, nor have specific action plans been adopted by the ACLJ. But he noted the other restrictions that could be forced on Americans at Washington's Dulles airport and New York's JFK.

The restrictions could include clothing requirements for women and banning passengers from "carrying and reading religious literature of their choice."
"This includes, but is not limited to, both Christian and Jewish sacred texts, such as the Old Testament and the New Testament, as well as any objects that reflect their religion, such as a cross necklace," Lovitky said.

"You can imagine how foreign it is to our values as Americans," he told WND. "To adhere to restrictions of this nature is extremely burdensome.

"This needs to be addressed in a way which is consistent with our Western values," he said.

The plan apparently is proceeding through negotiations with a goal of having the Saudi airline aboard the Delta alliance in 2012. Delta's website lists Aeroflot, AeroMexico, AirEuropa, Air France, Alitalia, China Southern, CSA Czech Airlines, Kenya Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Korean Air, TAROM and Vietnam Airlines as "SkyTeam Partners" already.

But Lovitky pointed out to Delta that Congress recently considered a plan to address Saudi Arabia's discrimination, noting the government there confirms visas will not be issued for an Israeli passport holder or a passport that has an Israeli arrival/departure stamp, "those who don't abide by the Saudi traditions concerning appearance and behaviors" and "Jewish People."

"Delta is prohibited from engaging in religious discrimination by a variety of state and federal laws, as well as its own Code of Ethics," he wrote. "However, Delta would be directly involving itself in the most heinous form of religious discrimination if it were to enter into any code share or other reciprocal travel arrangements with any airline which refuses boarding to individuals of specific religious persuasions.

"I urge Delta to shun any reciprocal travel arrangements with Saudi Arabian Airlines until the government of Saudi Arabia provides assurances that persons who acknowledge being Jewish on their visa applications will be granted visas."
He also was upset that Delta's response to a followup letter was to say, "we respectfully consider this matter closed and we will not be responding to this matter again."