The director of Saudi Arabian Airlines defended the company’s anti-Israeli policy on Friday, after a report surfaced in the US last week that the state-owned carrier refuses to sell tickets to Israelis.
Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have diplomatic relations, Saudi Arabian Airlines general director Khalid al-Melhem told Saudi paper al-Watan, and therefore Israeli citizens are not allowed into Saudi Arabia.
This also applies to passengers in transit, he added. In the case of a delayed plane, an Israeli passenger would have to enter the country, which would be nearly impossible, he said.
Al-Melhem’s comments came after a July 15 New York Post report on New York City Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, who had a staff member cold-call Saudi Arabian Airlines and attempt to buy a ticket from New York to India while posing as an Israeli.
According to de Blasio, the airline’s online ticket service does not have an option for “Israel” when a customer is asked to choose nationality during the purchase process.
During the phone call, the airline said that it couldn’t sell a ticket to an Israeli passport holder and asked the caller if he had an additional passport from another country, but when the caller said he didn’t, the agent replied that “since you have Israeli nationality, you will not be allowed to go on Saudi Airlines.”
“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,” de Blasio told the Post.
“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 said.
De Blasio sent a letter to Al-Melhem demanding that the carrier start allowing Israeli passengers, in compliance with international regulations, or he “will act to make sure they’re excluded from United States airports, starting with JFK,” according to an Al-Arabiya report.
According to federal law cited by the New York Post, an “air carrier or foreign air carrier” operating in the US “may not subject a person in air transportation to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex or ancestry.”