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Paris, 27 June 2011

In a letter to Peter Hartman, Chairman and Tony Tyler, Director-General of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, urged an enquiry into the ramifications of a Delta Airlines - Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAA) partnership for Christian and Jewish passengers.

Samuels stressed the Centre's concern "at diverse media reports regarding the announced air services agreement between Delta Airlines and Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAA). Contradictory claims regarding the ramifications of the accord for Christian and Jewish passengers require an enquiry by a reputable professional arbiter." 

The letter continued, "IATA sets as its mission statement to 'fight for the interest of airlines across the globe [in] challenging unreasonable rules [of governments]'," adding "it would be understatement to call 'unreasonable rules' the Saudi ban on Bibles, crucifixes, stars of David and other non-Muslim appartenances in their country. As its flag airline and a state cooperation, SAA must apply this policy. Indeed, Riyadh is notorious for, selectively, harassing Jewish visitors." 

Samuels noted that "when challenged, a Delta spokesperson reportedly allowed that 'visa requirements to enter any country are dictated by that nation's government, not the airlines', adding that Delta would not codeshare with SAA nor grant its frequent flier miles to SAA passengers." 

"These responses", suggested the letter, "are possibly specious and certainly irrelevant, for SAA's 2012 entry into the Sky Team Alliance - strongly sponsored by Delta - would make full passenger exchange rights contractual", also stressing that "rival airline groups, such as the Star Alliance and One World, may fly to Saudi Arabia, but have not, thereby endorsed that country's racist policy." 

The Centre urged "IATA to determine whether the Delta - SAA partnership makes the former complicit in bigotry and discrimination - a position inimical to IATA's declared mission 'to help airlines to help themselves in  increasing passenger convenience' - while consigning Delta's slogan 'Caring more for you' to the realm of tragicomedy." 

"If IATA deems that SAA's practise is arguably discriminatory and Delta an accomplice by association, IATA must take appropriate action," concluding, "at that point, Saudi Arabian Airlines adhesion to the SkyTeam must be cancelled." 

The letter was shared with Michael Wisbrun, SkyTeam's Managing Director.