WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) today called on the United States Department of Transportation to launch an investigation into whether Saudi Arabian Airlines is violating federal anti-discrimination laws.
A story published in Monday’s New York Post revealed that the Jeddah-based airline, which operates 151 flights per week out of New York City and Washington, D.C., is refusing to allow Israeli passport holders to purchase airline tickets for flights originating in the United States, regardless of whether or not the final destination is a country with discriminatory entry requirements. While Saudi Arabia prohibits Israeli citizens from entering their country, questions remain over whether the airline can enforce this policy in the United States.
“Federal law protects people in this country who wish to travel by air from discrimination from domestic and foreign air carriers on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, or ancestry,” the senators said. “While we find this practice completely reprehensible in any country, we believe the fact that it is happening here in the United States constitutes a violation of federal law. We’re asking the Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over airlines operating in the United States, to open an immediate investigation into the matter.”
Full text of the senators’ letter:
The Honorable Anthony Foxx
Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Secretary Foxx,
We write today to ask that the Department of Transportation conduct an immediate investigation of Saudi Arabian Airlines, which recent reports suggest may be in violation of federal anti-discrimination law.
A story published in Monday’s New York Post revealed that the Jeddah-based airline, which operates 151 flights per week out of John F. Kennedy International Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport, is refusing to allow Israeli citizens to purchase airline tickets for flights originating in the United States. We believe this to be a violation of the Airport and Highway Improvement Act, which prohibits domestic and foreign air carriers from subjecting a person in air transportation to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, or ancestry.
When a staff member from the office of the New York City Public Advocate called Saudi Arabian Airlines to attempt to purchase a ticket from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York to Mumbai, India and identified himself as an Israeli passport holder, the staff member was told he could not travel on the Saudi airline with an Israeli passport.
We represent many constituents in our respective states who either are Israeli-Americans themselves, or who have friends and relatives with Israeli passports, whose right to travel is limited by this discriminatory policy. They should not be denied the right to travel on any airline solely because of their national origin, and they do not deserve to be treated like second class citizens.
While we find this practice completely reprehensible in any country, we believe the fact that it is happening here in the United States constitutes a violation of federal law.
We ask that the Department of Transportation open an immediate investigation into the matter.
Christopher S. Murphy
United States Senator
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator