Saudi Arabian carrier joins Delta's SkyTeam alliance

Saudi Arabia's flag carrier has officially joined Delta Air Lines' SkyTeam global alliance, an expansion of the alliance's network that generated some controversy last year.

Saudia, previously known as Saudi Arabian Airlines, joined SkyTeam at a ceremony in Jeddah on Tuesday as the first member airline from the Middle East. The airline first announced its plans to join the global airline alliance in early 2011.

Delta was criticized last year after online reports and discussion raised questions about how Jewish travelers might be affected. A State Department web page on travel to Saudi Arabia says there have been "reports by U.S. citizens that they were refused a Saudi visa because their passports reflected travel to Israel or indicated that they were born in Israel." Delta said visa requirements are dictated by that nation's government, not by airlines.

Delta said it still does not plan to "code-share" with Saudia by selling seats on each others' flights, but now that Saudia is a SkyTeam member, Delta said it will share airport lounge benefits and allow passengers to earn Delta frequent flier miles if they fly on Saudia.