The question of Saudi Arabias policy on Jewish tourists came under the spotlight last week, after a rumor spread via the internet that Delta Air Lines was enforcing a Saudi ban on Jewish visitors. In response to heated public demands, both Delta and the Saudi Embassy in Washington attempted to quash the rumors.
According to a JTA report Sunday, the Saudi Embassy said in a two-sentence statement that The Government of Saudi Arabia does not deny visas to U.S. citizens based on their religion."
However the U.S. State Department travel advisory for Saudi Arabia said there have been reports by U.S. citizens that they were refused a Saudi visa because their passports reflected travel to Israel or indicated that they were born in Israel, said the JTA report.
In addition, the Anti-Defamation League said Saudi policies made it hard for religiously-observant Jews to enter the country.
Saudi Arabia bars anyone from bringing into Saudi Arabia religious ritual objects, including religious texts, from any faith other than Islam, effectively banning religiously observant Jews from entering the country, said the ADL, according to the JTA report.
The ADL also said it expected Delta, and any other American airline which flies to Riyadh or partners with an airline that flies there, to ensure that its passengers - whatever their faith - not be discriminated against, and that no American airline in any way enable, or facilitate this discrimination, whatever the regulations of Saudi Arabia.
According to JTA, rumors that Delta Air Lines would discriminate against Jews wishing to travel to Saudi Arabia emerged last week after World Net Daily, a conservative website, reported that Delta Airlines was enforcing a Saudi ban on Jewish visitors by partnering with Saudi Arabian Airlines.
But the Saudi Embassy in Washington said rumors regarding passenger flight restrictions on Saudi Arabian Airlines were completely false.
In addition, while SAA is joining the SkyTeam Alliance, which Delta founded, this does not mean Delta will operate their flights.
Delta does not operate service to Saudi Arabia and does not codeshare with any airline on flights to that country, said Delta in a news release on Friday.
Deltas only agreement with Saudi Arabian Airlines is a standard industry interline agreement, which allows passengers to book tickets on multiple carriers, similar to the standard interline agreements American Airlines, US Airways and Alaska Airlines have with Saudi Arabian Airlines, it said. All of the three global airline alliances – Star, which includes United Airlines; oneworld, which includes American Airlines, and SkyTeam, which includes Delta – have members that fly to Saudi Arabia and are subject to that countrys rules governing entry.
The news release specifically added that Delta does not discriminate, nor condone the discrimination of any customers based on age, race, nationality, religion, or gender.