An Israeli citizen, Adar M, sued Kuwait Airways after it cancelled his booking for a flight from Frankfurt to Bangkok that included a stop-over in Kuwait City. The Israeli plaintiff is a student living in Germany.
The Frankfurt state court noted in its decision that Kuwait Airways was not allowed to have contracts with Israelis under Kuwaiti law because of a boycott against Israel.
The court said it that even if “this law made no sense”, the airline risked repercussions that were “not reasonable” for violating it, such as fines or prison time for employees.
The cancellation came a few days before the student’s scheduled departure in August 2016 when it became known that he held an Israeli passport.
The airline offered to book him on a nonstop flight to Bangkok with another carrier, but the student refused the offer and filed the lawsuit, seeking compensation for alleged “discrimination”.
The court has rejected his discrimination claim ruling that German law covers discrimination based on race, ethnicity or religion, but not nationality.
Germany’s Central Council of Jews condemned the ruling, denouncing it as “unbearable that a foreign company operating based on deeply anti-Semitic national laws is allowed to be active in Germany”.
The lawyer representing the Israeli passenger called the verdict “deeply shocking”. Nathan Gelbart said: “This is an embarrassing ruling for democracy and for Germany. It cannot be allowed to stand like this.”
Frankfurt Mayor Uwe Becker also expressed his outrage. “An airline that practices discrimination and anti-Semitism by refusing to fly Israeli passengers should not be allowed to take off or land in Frankfurt,” Becker said.
The Kuwaiti policy was condemned by Germany’s deputy foreign minister. A justice ministry official also invoked the Holocaust, saying he could not “remain silent when activists in Germany call for a boycott of Israel, or, as in this case, when an airline refuses to carry Israeli citizens.”
Christian Lange, parliamentary state secretary in the ministry, appealed to Chancellor Angela Merkel to personally advocate a ban on Kuwait Airways’ operations in Germany. The German government should revoke landing rights for Kuwait Airways given its ban on Israeli passengers, he said.
In the US and Switzerland courts have ruled in favour of plaintiffs with similar grievances, the German news agency dpa reported.
Kuwait Airways may have had their policy of forbidding Israeli passport holders from flying with them upheld by the court, but they are by no means the only airline in the Middle East to do so.
Despite Israeli officials repeatedly hinting at Saudi Arabia’s fondness for the Jewish state after a Saudi-owned newspaper ran an interview with Israel’s military chief, the flag carrier of that country has freely admitted to barring Israelis from travelling with their airline.
For the airline, even a few hours in the airport transit lounge, is a no-go for Israelis.
“[Diplomatic relations] also apply to transit passengers.” said airline’s then-chief, Khalid Al-Melhem, in 2013, “In case the plane is delayed, the passenger will have to enter the country; and at that point, it would be very difficult to let him into [Saudi Arabia] if there are no diplomatic relations.”
An attempted dummy booking by i24NEWS for a flight this month between Rome and Mumbai, with a stopover in Saudi Arabia revealed the policy was still in place.