Airlines pilot refuses to fly Israeli Deputy FM Melchiore
By The Associated Press
August 11, 2002
CINCINNATI - A Delta Air Lines subsidiary refused to fly Israeli
Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchior from Cincinnati because
the pilot thought Melchior posed a security risk, the daily Yediot
Aharonot reported Sunday.
Melchior, who was being escorted by State Department officials
for Friday's flight, told the radio that he waited on a plane 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 could not get
back on the plane. "The security officials and the company
all put pressure on him, and there were negotiations," Melchior
told Israel Radio. "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.
The Israeli embassy in Washington has 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
reported. The others reportedly were Alon Pinkas, the consul general
in New York, and a bodyguard of Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
He deplored the "singling out of Israeli diplomats... and
removing them from a plane in such a manner."
Atlanta-based Delta, which has a hub in Cincinnati, is the third-biggest
U.S. carrier. A message seeking comment was left early Sunday morning
at the Delta corporate communications office.