View Full Version : Delta pilot refuses to fly Israeli diplomat

11th Aug 2002, 11:23

Filed at 6:30 a.m. ET [Auigust 11, 2002]

CINCINNATI (AP) -- A pilot for a Delta Air Lines subsidiary would not fly Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchior from Cincinnati to Toronto because the pilot thought Melchior posed a security risk, an Israeli radio station reported Sunday.

Melchior, who was being escorted by State Department officials, told Israel Radio that he waited on the plane Friday for more than an hour before the pilot evacuated it, saying there was a security risk.

When Melchior disembarked, he said he was told he was not allowed to get back on the plane.

"The security officials and the company all put pressure on him, and there were negotiations,'' Melchior told the station. "But the pilot is sovereign on his aircraft, and he is empowered to make such a decision, and he did it in spite of all the pressure from the company and security officials.''

He said he flew out on another Delta plane about a half-hour later. He has since returned to Israel.

The Israeli embassy in Washington had taken the matter up with the State Department, Melchior said.

This is the third time an Israeli official has been pulled from a flight because of a pilot's sense of a security risk, the radio station reported. The others reportedly were Alon Pinkas, the Israeli consul general in New York, and a bodyguard of Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

"This singling out of Israeli diplomats ... and removing them from a plane in such a manner, and the very fact that we are Israelis (is deemed) to pose a security risk, is intolerable,'' Melchior said.

Atlanta-based Delta, which has a hub in Cincinnati, is the nation's third-biggest carrier. A message seeking comment was left early Sunday morning at the Delta corporate communications office.

What is left unsaid is what was the nature of the perceived security risk. A possibility would be that the Deputy Foreign Minister was being escorted by armed Israeli bodyguards, or armed personnel of the State Department's Office ofv Diplomatic Security.

11th Aug 2002, 13:39
Well, actually it was a Comair pilot who refused the ride.

Comair ALPA tried to force their pilots onto the Delta seniority list a couple of years ago but failed miserably.

Comair is a regional (i.e. commuter) feeder for Delta.

11th Aug 2002, 15:58
Good for the Comair captain, he had the prerogative and he took it, the diplomat went on a latter flight (not much latter) with a crew that was more comfortable flying him and his ilk. The Comair captain will likely be required to justify his decision, which is appropriate. However, because of the nature of the situation, with high-level dignitaries involved, he may receive quite an admonishment. From a safety standpoint he made the right call, he was troubled with the situation and he exercised his authority. It would be very easy in this situation, with pressure from company, dignitaries (Do you know who I am? young man), and the State Department, to be obsequious and just take the flight.

Perhaps next time the dignitary will demand that you fly through a thunderstorm because he must get to his highbrow meeting. No, the precedent has been set – the captain is the final authority on the aircraft.

pontius's pa
11th Aug 2002, 16:32
I am trying very hard to word this in as uncontroversial manner as possible, since my true feelings on this subject would be unpalatable to many.

I will settle for,

"Would the Israelis have been heard to protest as much if it had been a Palestinian diplomat who had been the target of this action?"

People who live in glass houses shouldn't fire bullets at kids who throw stones.

Danny, I am sorry, I will quite understand if you delete this answer and admonish me for a political response to a thread with political overtones, undoubtedly unintended by the initial poster and responders.

To answer the original question, the captain was completely justified in his action.

As a senior government Israeli official, in the circumstances prevailing, he should have been travelling on an aircraft provided by El Al.

11th Aug 2002, 16:35
Let him take the train.;)

11th Aug 2002, 16:50
As a "Common Carrier" Delta can no more exclude an Israeli than they can an Arab. They have a requirement under law to take all that show up as required by their authority as a common carrier as regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT). It is for the same reason that we cannot profile arabs from 20 to 40 years old and have to search grandma as well, even though we know Grandma isn't the threat.

As to Pontious's rediculous statement:
People who live in glass houses shouldn't fire bullets at kids who throw stones.

A closer statement to the truth would be, Arab children throwing stones shouldn't use their bodies as human shields for snipers thus rightfully drawing Israeli army gunfire.


11th Aug 2002, 16:52
What risk are we talking about in this age of Extreme Airl travel security?

Jorge Newberry
11th Aug 2002, 16:58
I wonder what Ppruners would have said if, at the height of IRA violence, a US pilot had refused to take a UK minister on the grounds that he represented a security risk?

Rather less "Well done, old boy." and rather more "Useless Yanks, bending the knee to terrorists." , I would imagine.

11th Aug 2002, 17:00
pontius's pa:

"I am trying very hard to word this in as uncontroversial manner as possible"

Not trying very hard then, are you?

"since my true feelings on this subject would be unpalatable to many."

Yes, I do find ignorant racists unpalatable.

"As a senior government Israeli official, in the circumstances prevailing, he should have been travelling on an aircraft provided by El Al"

Yes, do tell, just how often do El Al fly from Cincinnati to Toronto?

11th Aug 2002, 17:48
Jorge, the difference is that the IRA never posed a threat to aviation, yet the Middle Eastern Terrorist groups have often used aviation as a traget.

11th Aug 2002, 18:39
The way they have conducted themselves with the Palestian people is based on much of the same philosophy (selection based on race) however they carried it out with much more force and much less compassion for human life! I do not see why they are complaining with tatics they use daily!!

11th Aug 2002, 18:57
I think you are a bit out of line there, Zulu.

El Al use racial profiling very aggressively to screen travellers and to exclude anyone who they deem to be of higher risk of being either a potential attacker or target -from getting on their aircraft. No Palestinian would be able to board without a very extensive grilling, or in many cases at all.

Why does a non-Israeli become an "ignorant racist" when he does exactly the same thing?

11th Aug 2002, 20:11
Absolutely bloody amazing, so now we are going to have pilots decide on the grounds of political prejudice who to carry! Presumably, Arafat, the head of a terrorist organisation responsible for countless atrocities worldwide would have been acceptable? It might help to reflect that Isreal has been the target of extremists determined to destroy it since its inception by, I might remind you the people who flew a couple of aeroplanes into a couple of towers recently. Jorge, we have been at the recieving end of terrorism for thirty odd years, thousands of lives lost, financed by such organisations as NORAID, particularily goring to see these terrorists entertained in the White House!

11th Aug 2002, 20:50
When I was flying VIP in the mideast, Arafat was on my plane once, as was the family of Bin Laden.

In fact, one of my ex-F/A's flys regularly for the Bin Laden family under contract on an ad hoc basis.

Flying these people was a fact of life, and I can assure you on these flights, the security they provided for their "principals" was far and above any I could have thought up.

In the case of this Comair pilot, I agree he has the right to exclude anyone (within reason) from boarding his a/c, however, on the surface he seems to have gone a bit OTT.

It would be interesting to find out what the actual situation was, for instance, did this gentleman show up with a police escort on the ramp and try to board throught the outside jetway stairs, or was he just another passenger who's status was pointed out to the Capt?

I do agree with what someone said, regarding the Israelli's should have provided (chartered) a private jet for this person, and then this all could have been avoided.

11th Aug 2002, 20:51
>>Arafat, the head of a terrorist organisation<<

And Sharon has had nothing to do with terrorism huh? :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

11th Aug 2002, 21:04

Wasn't it the IRA that lobbed a few mortars into Heathrow from the Excelsior car-park ?

I would consider that a threat to aviation.

wrt this topic, I would feel uncomfortable sharing a flight with such a high risk target regardless of my political views.

11th Aug 2002, 21:20
It matters not whether the person representing the threat was of any distinct nationality. Two facts seem to be prevalent in this situation: One, the pilot in command felt unsafe of the condition presented and dealt with it in an appropriate way, by refusing to take the flight. Two, the official represented a high level dignitary of a country at war, this represents a target of opportunity for the opposing side. By placing this person on a civilian flight one endangers the other passengers as possible collateral fatalities. The USAF and Navy have enough aircraft to shuttle this VIP, a guest of the country, to where he needed to go. This would also be a relevant training exercise for the crews who bore holes in the sky with their Beechjets and Lears.

11th Aug 2002, 21:53
FlyinvV wrote:
Wasn't it the IRA that lobbed a few mortars into Heathrow from the Excelsior car-park ?

I would consider that a threat to aviation.

Indeed. And I must have imagined the TV news footage I saw of an IRA gun crew banging away with an AA gun at an Army Lynx (which remained blissfully unaware of the attack and escaped unscathed - unlike a.n.other Army helo some time later, which had a 'landing accident' or so they say).

People with AA guns should surely be considered threatening to aviation, even if they are fantastically bad shots.

12th Aug 2002, 01:58

I have never heard of the IRA possessing an AA gun...perhaps it was a AK47 rifle....they did try and buy red eyes...or SAM's to us military dogs....but they got caught in Florida in a sting ops...
Also wasn't the mortar attack in Heathrow aimed at the local police station....and 1 or 2 mortars over shot their target and ended up airside???? i think that was the real reason.....
The IRA have never attacked a civilian aircraft....they only go for the Lynx helos in NI.

Anyways aren't we getting off the point.......
I like the way they say a Delta pilot......Comair was bought by Delta but still trades as Comair....not DELTA......so why not say "a Comair pilot"....i guess that using the Delta name gives better publicity....but also exposes Delta to a backlash by fanatics....
:( :cool: :confused: :p :rolleyes:

12th Aug 2002, 02:12
Plus which, Delta has far deeper pockets for when the law suit rolls around.

12th Aug 2002, 06:07
Yes, do tell, just how often do El Al fly from Cincinnati to Toronto?
They need to take lessons from Anthony "King of the freeloaders" Blair and use creative excuses for private plane travel.

13th Aug 2002, 17:19
For all those wannabee diplomats who criticized the Captains actions on the closed thread, read the below article.

Seems the good diplomats' armed guard had his paperwork out of order.

For those like myself who have enjoyed years of rejection from paperwork being out of order, doors slammed in my face, rude service, poor or non-existent service, delays/delays/delays and all sorts of other pathetic behavior from goverment servants around the world, this is just a little "win" for the little guys.

(By the way, I have flown Mr Shimon Peres. He was friendly and his guards papers were in order)



Comair cites bodyguard's gun,
lack of paperwork

Airline explains why pilot kicked off Israeli official

By James Pilcher [email protected]
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Comair officials said Monday that the reason a high-ranking Israeli official was not allowed to board a flight to Toronto last week was the pilot had not received proper documentation to allow a loaded firearm onboard.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchior complained on an Israeli radio station Sunday about the incident. He said the pilot had deemed him and his party a security risk, and that having Israeli diplomats removed from planes as security risks was “intolerable.”

But Nick Miller, spokesman for Erlanger-based Comair, denied it had anything to do with Mr. Melchior's nationality. Apparently one of Mr. Melchior's bodyguards was carrying a loaded weapon but did not have the proper documentation.

Mr. Miller did not reveal the name of the pilot in question but said Mr. Melchior and his party were allowed to board the next Comair flight from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport to Toronto after the proper documents were produced, about a two-hour delay.

“Comair's decision to re-accommodate the deputy foreign minister and his party on a later flight was based solely on the need to comply with federal regulations and airline policies that govern ... safety and security,” Mr. Miller said. “Comair does not tolerate discrimination.”

The Israeli station reported this was the third time an Israeli official had been turned away by a U.S. airline because of a perceived security risk. In at least one case, the pilot in question said he was concerned that high-ranking Israeli officials were potential terrorist targets.

Mr. Melchior, who had been visiting friends in the Cincinnati area, said the Israeli government has taken up the issue with the State Department in Washington.