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Delta Air Lines Commits To Nondiscrimination In Wake Of Religious Controversy

Delta Airlines Saudi

First Posted: 08/23/11 07:40 PM ET Updated: 10/24/11 06:12 AM ET

A senior executive for Delta Air Lines has issued a written commitment that the company will not in any circumstance seek to know the religious affiliation of its passengers or discriminate on religious grounds, a position that was called into question following the announcement of a new partnership with Saudi Arabian Airlines.

In late June of this year, Delta was the target of accusations that their newly planned partnership with Saudi Arabian Airlines meant that Jews would not be allowed to travel on some of the carrier's international flights. Many activists expressed concern that the company would be forced to comply with Saudi Arabia's discriminatory visa policies that prevent holders of Israeli passports from entering the country.

Delta initially responded to the controversy by stating:

"Delta Air Lines does not discriminate nor do we condone discrimination against any of our customers in regards to age, race, nationality, religion or gender ... It's important to realize that visa requirements to enter any country are dictated by that nation's government, not the airlines, and they apply to anyone entering the country regardless of whether it's by plane, bus or train."

On June 24, Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center was sharply critical in an open letter to Delta CEO Richard Anderson.

Mr. Anderson, I know that Delta cannot make any sovereign nation change its laws, but did anyone hold a gun to your head to cut this deal? Did you utter a word of protest during your negotiations with your partners over the Judenrein policies of Saudi Arabia? Did you ask Secretary of State Clinton to try to intervene in this matter?

After a meeting last week, Andrea Fischer Newman, a Senior Vice President for Delta, addressed a letter to Rabbi Cooper reiterating the company's policy of nondiscrimination.

Delta does not discriminate against any of our customers in regards to age, race, nationality, religion, or gender.

Delta employees do not currently, and will not in the future, request that customers disclose their religious affiliation. We would also not seek such information on behalf of any SkyTeam partner or any airline.

With Delta's position clearly on the side of nondiscrimination, the focus of the situation seems to be left solely on the policies of Saudi Arabia and whether international companies are in some way culpable for discrimination by doing business in Saudi Arabia or by entering into partnership with Saudi companies.

For his part, Rabbi Cooper issued a statement saying, “Delta has now done the right thing," adding that he hoped the Obama administration would assume a leadership role in urging the Saudis to change their stance toward Israel.

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Filed by Bryan Maygers  |