The director general of Saudi Arabian Airlines on Friday defended his company’s decision to discriminate against Israeli citizens by refusing to fly them from U.S. airports even when passengers are simply looking to transfer in Saudi Arabia to another country, Al Arabiya reports.
Earlier this week, the New York Post reported that the airline’s website asks for citizenship when booking a ticket but has no option on a drop-down menu for anyone holding an Israeli passport.
The discovery was made by the office of Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio which conducted a recent telephone sting on the Mideast nation’s airline.
When a member of de Blasio’s staff called the airline pretending to be an Israeli citizen trying to fly from JFK to Mumbai, India, on Saudi Arabian Airlines, he was told it was impossible, reported the New York Post.
The caller told the booking agent that he couldn’t find Israel as an option on the website.
The booking agent asked, “Do you have any other passports, other than the Israeli passport?”
When the caller said he didn’t, the agent put him on hold to check with a supervisor. The agent later informed the caller that he wouldn’t be welcome.
“Since you have Israeli nationality, you will not be allowed to go on Saudi Airlines,” the agent said.
De Blasio condemned the Saudi airline’s decision not to allow Israelis on board and said that it was “racial discrimination.” He warned that he would work to ensure the Saudi airlines does not land in American airports.
“No city in the world has closer ties to Israel than we do, and yet Israeli citizens are being discriminated against right here at JFK [airport]. It’s not only illegal; it’s an affront to who we are,” De Blasio said, according to the New York Post.
He added that he “will act to make sure they’re excluded from United States airports, starting with JFK” if the airline does not change its policy.
“We won’t stop with just exposing these practices. We’ll pursue this with authorities in Albany and in Washington until Israeli nationals’ rights are respected,” he emphasized.
The airline’s director general, Khalid al-Melhem, explained the discrimination policy by noting there is no political relationship between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Israel.
“If there is an absence of political relations between [Saudi Arabia] and any other country, we will not allow that country’s citizens into the kingdom,” Melhem told the Saudi Al-Watan newspaper.
“[Diplomatic relations] also apply to transit passengers… in case the plane is delayed, the passenger will have to enter the country; and at that point, it would be very difficult to let him into [Saudi Arabia] if there are no diplomatic relations,” he added.
Two years ago, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) asked Delta Air Lines to end a ‘Sky Team’ alliance with Saudi Arabian Airlines, saying it would lead to discriminatory practices against Jewish travelers. The request was made after it was reported that Jews and Israelis or passengers carrying any non-Islamic article of faith would not be able to fly code-share flights from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia under the partnership.
Delta later issued an official statement saying that it does not support discriminatory policies based on race, religion, gender, nationality, or age.
The airline also explained the terms of its agreement with the Saudi carrier are limited to booking services and “simply allow passengers to book tickets on multiple carriers.”
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