Thoughts on Delta, Saudia Arabia, and SkyTeam

Over the past couple days I’ve seen several blog posts and news articles about Delta banning Jews from flights to Saudi Arabia. Like so many news stories today, I knew I was reading the reaction to the news, not the news itself.

From the original announcement in January

Saudi Arabian Airlines complements the SkyTeam network by offering customers access to destinations across the Middle East not currently served by SkyTeam members. Through Saudi Arabia’s major hubs of Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, travelers can connect to new destinations on the Arabian Peninsula, the Indian subcontinent and Northern Africa. Examples are Alexandria, Aden, Colombo and Islamabad.

SkyTeam members will have access to new potential customers from the region as Saudi Arabian Airlines offers direct flights to Europe, Asia, Africa and the United States. Customers can transfer to SkyTeam partner flights via hubs such as Paris, Rome, Nairobi and New York-JFK. SkyTeam partner China Southern also offers regular connections to Asia from Jeddah.

What I pick up from this, contrary to all the news and blog reports I’ve seen in the past couple days following this Relgion News Service article is that Delta will not be flying to Saudi Arabia.

We might not know until 2012, but it appears you might take a Delta flight to New York, and then board Saudi Arabian Airlines and fly to Jedda. I think you can already do this. At least, New York City is on the list of destinations for Saudi Arabian Airlines. The difference, I think, is that once SAA is a part of SkyTeam, is that there is some cooperation in airlines referring passengers between each other, and individuals might get frequent flier miles good for both airlines. (Oh my!)

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Also, something I have read in no other reaction on this issue — according to the quote from the original article in January, SkyTeam Partner China Southern already flies to Jedda. I assume they follow Saudi Arabian government rules and regulations. China Southern joined SkyTeam in November of 2010. Currently, Delta Passengers transferring to China Southern to fly to Jedda must abide by these rules. Right?

I’m not going to make the decision for anyone else whether or not to fly Delta. However…

Anyone who wishes to boycott Delta over this needs to boycott these other SkyTeam partners

Aeroflot
Aeromexico
Air Europa
Air France
Alitalia
China Eastern
China Southern
Czech Airlines
Kenya Airways
KLM
Korean Air
TAROM
Vietnam Airlines

To boycott one, and not boycott the others, would be somewhat hypocritical in my opinion.

Personally…if we learn in 2012 that actual Delta flights are headed to Saudi Arabia, I will want a direct accounting from Delta as to what their policies are on who can board. I will also want to know if those same policies hold on all legs if the flight, let’s say, begins in New York, stops in Paris, and then heads to Saudi Arabia.

But if it’s Saudi Arabian Airlines (and China Southern) flying to Saudi Arabia — like they have been, are doing, and will do in the future regardless — I don’t care much if Delta refers passengers to them, or gets passengers referred to them by these airlines.

Update:

According to CNN

In its statement, Delta said it does not operate in Saudi Arabia nor does it codeshare (sell Delta seats on flights operated by other carriers) with airlines that serve that country. Delta said it has no plans to offer codeshare flights or other cross-airline benefits with Saudi Arabian Airlines.

So while Delta is a partner in SkyTeam with both Saudi Arabian Airlines and China Southern — their passengers do not get codesharing or other cross-airline benefits with either airline.

and

Delta’s agreement with the Saudi carrier allows passengers to book tickets on multiple airlines “similar to the standard interline agreements American Airlines, US Airways and Alaska Airlines have with Saudi Arabian Airlines,” the statement said.

So anyone complaining about Delta, needs to complain about AA, US Airways and Alaska Airlines, too.