NY Official Threatens to Ban Saudi Airlines from U.S. Airports over ‘Illegal’ Discrimination at JFK

An investigation carried out by New York City’s Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has found that Saudi Arabian Airlines refuses to sell tickets to Israelis and is thus violating both federal and state law. The ban applies even to Israelis wishing to use Saudi Arabia only as a transit point, not a final destination.

After hearing complaints from Israelis trying to book tickets on the official Saudi airline, de Blasio assigned one of his staffers to pose as an Israeli and try to book a ticket from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to Mumbai, India.

The New York Post writes that on the airline’s website for booking online, there is a drop-down menu listing options for nationalities. No option for Israel appears, though the list is otherwise so comprehensive, there is an option for Antarctica which isn’t even a country that assigns passports.

Photo: Wikipedia

The New York Post describes the conversation between the staffer from the New York City Public Advocate’s office posing as an Israeli and the airline booking agent:

“I’m an Israeli citizen, and I didn’t see my nationality on there [drop-down menu]. I was wondering if I could just order the ticket through you,” the caller said.

The booking agent asked: “Do you have any other passports, other than the Israeli passport?”

When the caller said he didn’t, the agent put him on hold to check with a supervisor. The agent later informed the caller that he wouldn’t be welcome.

“Since you have Israeli nationality, you will not be allowed to go on Saudi Airlines,” the agent said.

According to multiple media reports, the airline is violating federal law which stipulates that an “air carrier or foreign air carrier may not subject a person in air transportation to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex or ancestry.” The Jewish news site The Algemeiner reports that it is also a violation of New York state law.

“No city in the world has closer ties to Israel than we do, and yet Israeli citizens are being discriminated against right here at JFK. It’s not only illegal; it’s an affront to who we are,” said de Blasio who is also a candidate for New York City mayor.

“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,” he added.

De Blasio called a press conference in Times Square Monday where he said that he had sent a letter to Director General of Saudi Arabian Airlines Khalid Abdullah Almolhem to change the policy or else face consequences.

“Saudi Arabian Airlines uses U.S. airports and yet bans Israeli citizens from being able to fly on their airline,” he said. If the airline does not change its policy, “we will act to make sure they’re excluded from United States airports, starting with JFK,” The Algemeiner reported de Blasio as saying.

The Saudi carrier also flies to and from Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., The Algemeiner reports.

The airline faced criticism in 2011 when an announcement was made that it was joining Delta’s Sky Team network. As TheBlaze reported then, the concern was that passengers who are Jewish or hold Israeli passports would not be permitted to fly on Delta to Saudi Arabia in keeping with the kingdom’s reportedly discriminatory practices. Delta insisted it would not adopt any discriminatory policies. At the same time, it also said that Delta complies with “all applicable laws in every country” and that each passenger is responsible for obtaining the necessary travel documents.

De Blasio told The Algemeiner that he believes Saudi airline officials will respond.

“The Saudi regime is obviously very sensitive, in terms of its reputation. It is officially a U.S. ally although it often doesn’t act like one. So I believe that if we create some turbulence, it will be felt. I certainly know they don’t want to be excluded from the U.S. market,” he said.