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“The flying public can demonstrate its stand against bigotry by exercising its right to choose airlines of other alliances.”
Paris, 7 August 2013
In a letter to SkyTeam Chairman, Leo van Wijk (pictured), the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, noted that the Centre, in June 2011, “was the first to express concern at the then announced air services agreement between Delta Airlines and Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAA or Saudia), in regard to its implications for Christian and Jewish passengers.”
Samuels recalled that “in 2012, Saudia piggy-backed on Delta for fast-track entry into your alliance, while the former maintained its policy on confiscating Bibles, crucifixes, Stars of David and other non-Muslim appurtenances from their passengers.”
The letter noted that, “NBC TV then released a clip produced by the American Centre for Law and Justice (ACLJ) entitled ‘New Delta Airlines partner prevents Jews from flying’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFJQBp2FXFw). The airline spokesman therein stated that ‘Delta, like all international airlines, is required to comply with all applicable laws governing entry into every country we serve.’”
Samuels added that “this is, in fact,still clear from Saudia’s online reservation web-page, whether flying from Paris, New York or anywhere across its network, its dropdown list of sovereign and ‘unsovereign’ nationalities—Antarctica, Palestine, etc.—excludes only Israelis”, continuing “our Centre does not dispute the sovereign right of every state to regulate the entry of foreign nationals by issuing visas and of goods by Customs controls. This right cannot, however, stretch to blanket deals based on religious or ethnic identity of persons or goods confiscated in deliberate profiling.”
The Centre quoted from the SkyTeam website:
—Its airline member requirements: “In order to become an official member of SkyTeam, aspiring members first need to meet strict safety quality, IT and customer service standards… expert auditors check in detail whether the membership requirements are fulfilled before an airline can join SkyTeam.”
—Their adoption of the SkyTeam Corporate: “Social Responsibility Statement, a commitment not only to financial standards but also from a social and environmental perspective.”
—These standards are synthesized in your “5 Reasons to Book with SkyTeam”: “SkyTeam airlines provide passengers with consistently warm and friendly in-flight service without compromising the cultural diversity that makes each member distinctive.”
The Centre lamented that “it is at a loss to understand how Saudia’s discriminatory practices passed the SkyTeam audit and how, under your strict standards, Delta might fulfill its reported intent to profile, on behalf of Saudia, from January 2014 - a step that would render Delta's slogan,"Caring More for You " into the realm of farce” and called on SkyTeam to “resubmit both these member airlines to an independent audit and, in the interim, to suspend their membership by denying them codeshore status.”
The letter detailed the steps as “curtailing Saudia passengers (and eventually those of Delta) from SkyTeam shared ticketing/fare agreements—e.g. ‘Go Round the World’ and other regional travel passes—single point check-in, interlining and prioritizing baggage to final destination, Sky Priority access to lounges, changes to reservations, frequent flyer and rewards programmes, etc.”
“In brief, Mr. Chairman, seventeen of your nineteen member airlines—including such industry leaders as Air France and KLM—cannot be made complicit in Saudia’s religious discrimination and Delta’s announced policy of profiling. Both must be suspended from SkyTeam... Indeed, the flying public may wish to demonstrate its stand against bigotry by exercising its right to choose and switch to airlines of other alliances,” concluded Samuels.
For further information please contact Dr. Shimon Samuels on 00(33)609770158, join the Center on Facebook, www.facebook.com/simonwiesenthalcenter, or follow @simonwiesenthal for news updates sent direct to your Twitter page or mobile device.
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).