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Posted on 7/15/2013
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio today exposed discriminatory practices by Saudi Arabian Airlines that prevent Israeli passengers from flying on the airline into or out of JFK airport to any international destination. The airline’s website currently recognizes North Korean and even “Antarctican” passengers, but bars those with Israeli passports. In a letter to the airline’s Director General, de Blasio called for an immediate end to the practice, citing it as a clear violation of federal and state laws.
Saudi Arabian Airlines is a member of SkyTeam, a consortium that includes Delta Airlines. Under the airline’s current policy, Israeli nationals may not book a ticket online, by phone or in person at the terminal. That practice violates a number of U.S. laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of national origin—including 49 U.S.C. 40127(a), 42 U.S.C. 2000(a), Section 296(13) of the New York Human Rights Law, and Section 8-107(18) of the New York Administrative Code.
“No city in the world has closer ties to Israel than we do, and yet Israeli citizens are being discriminated against right here on our doorstep. It’s not only illegal, it’s an affront to who we are,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. “We won’t stop with just exposing these practices. We’ll pursue this with authorities in Albany and in Washington until Israeli nationals’ rights are respected.”
Read de Blasio’s letter:
July 12, 2013
Khalid Abdullah Almolhem
Director General, Saudi Arabian Airlines
Al-Rawdah Street, Al-Khaldiah District
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Dear Mr. Khalid Abdullah Almolhem:
I write to urge Saudi Arabian Airlines to immediately end its ongoing practice of discrimination against Israeli passengers on the basis of national origin. As of the writing of this letter, your airline’s website requires all potential passengers to select their nationality from a drop-down menu in order to purchase tickets for flights to and from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). The drop-down menu features all nationalities with the exception of “Israeli,” and therefore prevents Israeli nationals from purchasing tickets online (see attached screenshot). The failure to allow Israeli passengers to purchase tickets is a clear violation of the laws of the United States.
Staff members on Saudi Arabian Airlines’ telephone reservation hotline confirmed that Israeli nationals are also prohibited from purchasing tickets on the phone and in person at JFK for flights on Saudi Arabian Airlines. According to the company’s reservation agents, this restriction applies to all flights on Saudi Arabian Airlines, including transit flights where visas are not required.
As you are aware, because Saudi Arabian Airlines flies in and out of JFK and conducts business in the State of New York, it is subject to all relevant local, state and federal laws. Your ticketing policy is currently in violation of several U.S. laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of national origin—including 49 U.S.C. 40127(a), 42 U.S.C. 2000(a), Section 296(13) of the New York Human Rights Law, and Section 8-107(18) of the New York Administrative Code. Accordingly, I ask that you take immediate steps to ensure that all nationalities are able to purchase tickets for flights on Saudi Arabian Airlines.
Please inform my office as to Saudi Arabian Airlines’ plan for appropriate corrective action. If you have any questions, you may contact my General Counsel, Steven Newmark at 212-669-4253. Thank you very much for your anticipated prompt response.
Bill de Blasio
Public Advocate for the City of New York
Cc: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman