What do you think? The Delta Airlines Debate

Recent pieces in USA Today, Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, and other news sources have discussed the implications of a business alliance between Delta Airlines and Saudi Arabian Airlines.

Although Delta announced in January that the Saudi airline would join its SkyTeam network in 2012, the specifics of the deal only received media attention – and a great deal of censure – this week.  Delta flights to Saudi Arabia made possible by this alliance will have to conform with Saudi law.  The problem is that many Saudi laws are discriminatory.

For example,  the Saudi government refuses to issue visas (required even of passengers landing in the country in transit to another destination) to anyone who has an Israeli stamp in their passport.  The regime also frequently denies visas to those with Jewish-sounding last names.  Additionally, non-Islamic religious materials are not allowed in Saudi Arabia and thus would not be allowed on Delta flights stopping over in the country.

According to MSNBC, Delta issued a new statement today, clarifying that it has not struck a code-sharing deal with Saudi Arabian Airlines, but rather has agreed to a “standard interline agreement.”  The airline also emphasized that “it’s important to realize that visa requirements to enter any country are dictated by that nation’s government, not the airlines.”

Some have argued that this is a standard business deal and that it’s inappropriate to hold Delta accountable for Saudi policies.  Others have argued that Delta isn’t being forced to include Saudi Arabian Airlines into its Sky Team Alliance and thus, by partnering with the airline, it is enabling discriminatory policies. We at GTJ would love to know what you think.

UPDATE: This past weekend, Delta issued a statement clarifying that it does not operate flights to Saudi Arabia nor code share with any airlines that do.  Furthermore, Delta “does not intend to […] share reciprocal benefits, such as frequent flier benefits, with Saudi Arabian Airlines.”