NYC’s De Blasio Threatens to Pull JFK Airport Slot From Saudi Arabian Airlines for Blocking Israelis From Flights
Saudi Arabian Airlines discriminates against Israeli nationals attempting to fly the airline out of New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, the City’s Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said Monday, citing a probe his office conducted of the airline.
At a press conference in Times Square Monday, De Blasio said that he sent a letter today urging Khalid Abdullah Almolhem, Director General of Saudi Arabian Airlines, 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 their policy, “we will act to make sure they’re excluded from United States airports, starting with JFK,” De Blasio said.
In addition to JFK, Saudi Airlines also flies out of Washington D.C.’s Dulles International Airport.
The issue was originally brought to the attention of De Blasio’s office by passengers who attempted to fly the airline, but were rebuffed. An investigation into the matter by his office confirmed the airline’s prejudice. Attempts to book tickets by a staffer in his office posing as an Israeli national both through the airline’s website and over the phone proved the complaints were founded on truth.
In the case of the airline’s website, a drop down menu does not include Israel, though it was otherwise so comprehensive that even Antarctica appeared as an option, though, as De Blasio pointed out, “in fact, there are no citizens of Antarctica.” The faux Israeli staffer was also rebuffed when calling over the telephone to reserve a seat, being told by a ticket agent he could not fly the airline.
The discriminatory practice violates federal law, which says 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,” as well as several New York State laws.
This is the second time Saudi Airlines’ policy towards Israelis has caused a stir. When the airline teamed up with Delta in 2011 the American Jewish community protested the alliance. However, a policy towards Israelis, while rumored to be in place, was never considered official. De Blasio says it is now obvious that it is.
“This is quite official. It’s quite formal now. You can see with your own eyes on their website. And by now making it official they violate our laws,” de Blasio told The Algemeiner. “We need to make sure they are excluded from the American market or they change their policy and act according to our laws.”
De Blasio also told The Algemeiner he believes the Saudis will respond to his overtures.
“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 added that his office had not heard from the Israeli consulate, but “we know, obviously, that this has been an historic problem.”