The US Department of Transportation informed the airline it must allow Israeli passengers on flights from the US to other countries, but the airline’s hatred of Israel is so deep that it would rather lose profitable business rather than allow even one Israeli to board its airplanes.
Kuwait Airways has canceled its line from New York to London after the US Department of Transportation found the airline was illegally discriminating against Israelis by refusing to admit them on its flights, and demanded it stop doing so, USA Today reported Tuesday.
The two-year long saga began in 2013 when Eldad Gatt, an Israeli citizen, tried to book a flight from New York to London on Kuwait Airways, but the airline’s online booking system did not allow him to buy the ticket because it is programmed to deny the entry of an Israeli passport information.
Gatt filed an official discrimination complaint with the department. The department accepted Gatt’s complaint after initially ruling against it.
In an official letter to the Kuwaiti company, the department ordered it to “cease and desist from refusing to transport Israeli citizens between the U.S. and any third country where they are allowed to disembark.”
Discriminatory Kuwaiti Laws
Failure to comply with the letter will leave the department with “no choice but to pursue further administrative and/or judicial action,” wrote Blane Workie, the department’s assistant general counsel for enforcement. Kuwait Airways was given 15 days to comply with the law.
The Kuwaiti company has chosen to drop the line and lose all the business that goes with it rather than admit even one Israeli to its flights.
Refusing to sell tickets to Israelis is a breach of US law, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said a few weeks earlier. “If the airline does not quickly and voluntarily alter its behavior, [the federal Department of Transportation] is prepared to use all tools at its disposal to protect the civil rights of passengers,” he stated.
In contrast, Kuwaiti law prohibits its citizens from entering “into an agreement, personally or indirectly, with entities or persons residing in Israel, or with Israeli citizenship.”
The airline filed a suit in a federal court in Washington claiming its policy “isn’t discriminatory because it will sell tickets to passengers regardless of race, national origin or religion – so long as they hold a passport valid in Kuwait,” and asking to be allowed to continue to fly to the United States. So far the airline has not withdrawn its suit, and if it wins in court the airline could resume flights to America.
There has been at least one other such complaint against the airline and a discrimination suit has been filed against it by another Israeli. Iris Eliazarov, 26, who came to the United States when she was 11, was barred in November 2014 from boarding a Kuwait Airways flight from New York to London. Her husband, David Nektalov, a US citizen, was allowed to board the flight.
“I didn’t think discrimination like this could exist in America, in JFK [Airport], in New York City,” Nektalov told the NY Daily News. “If they want to operate here, they have to obey our laws. Sixty years ago blacks weren’t allowed to ride buses. This is not about money. You have to make a stand.”
In this case too, the airline’s attorney claimed the suit has no merit because the policy is based on citizenship, not religion. He said that a Muslim with an Israeli passport would also not be allowed on the plane.
A number of US senators, including Charles Schumer (NY) and Richard Blumenthal (CN), have taken up the cause in the past, demanding the Department of Transportation fine the airlines involved, enforce the law and conduct an investigation.