Delta Air/Saudi Controversy: After Meeting at SWC, Delta Formally Declares: “We will not request … religious affiliation”

August 22, 2011

Following weeks of mounting criticism from Jews, Christians, Hindus and others, Delta Airlines has put in writing that it will never request that its customers disclose their religious affiliation. A letter to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, from a Senior Vice President, read in part, “Delta employees do not currently and will not in future, request that customers declare their religious affiliation. We would also not seek such information on behalf of any SkyTeam partner or any airline.” (Read letter here)

The controversy began shortly after it was announced that Saudi Arabian Airlines was joining the SkyTeam Alliance of airlines, which includes Delta. Initial concerns expressed that Delta might facilitate the Saudi government’s requirement that travellers disclose their religion were heightened when a Delta spokesperson wrote that the airline “must comply with all applicable laws in every country it serves” because it would face fines if a passenger arrives at a destination without proper documents.

[Photo: Rabbi Abraham Cooper (second from left) with Jeff Davidman, Director of Government Affairs for Delta Airlines (second from right) and other Delta representatives.]

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, wrote an open letter to Delta Airlines CEO Richard Anderson, slamming the response ( ).

Last week Delta officials met with Rabbi Cooper at Simon Wiesenthal Center headquarters in Los Angeles to clarify the airline’s policy. That meeting was followed by a written commitment.

“Delta has now done the right thing, sending a signal to the Saudis that it will not cooperate with Riyadh’s policy of religious apartheid. We hope that all other US-based airlines around the world will declare and follow a similar policy. We also urge the Obama Administration to lead the way in demanding that the Saudis drop their overt policy of religious discrimination," Cooper concluded.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (PARLATINO).

For more information, please contact the Center's Public Relations Department, 310-553-9036, join the Center on Facebook,, or follow @simonwiesenthal for news updates sent direct to your Twitter page or mobile device.