News and Analysis

Major Airline Slammed Over Statement After Expelling 100 Jews From Flight: Report
BERLIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 27: A retrofitted Lufthansa plane equipped with medical isolation facilities for Ebola cases arrives for a media presentation at Tegel airport on November 27, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. The airplane, dubbed the "Robert Koch" and commisoned by the German government, will serve as a MedEvac option for health workers who are in western Africa participating in the international effort to stem the spread of the deadly Ebola virus. The German Red Cross (DRK), emergency services group (THW) and the Bundeswehr have sent volunteers to treat ebola cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Sean Gallup / Getty Images

German airline Lufthansa faced backlash on Tuesday over a statement that it released attempting to explain why a large number of Jews had been expelled from a recent flight.

Multiple Jewish organizations say more than 100 Jewish passengers who had traveled from New York City to Germany last week were not allowed to board their connection to Budapest.

“The travelers say all of the identifiably Orthodox Jews were prevented from boarding a connecting flight in Frankfurt, Germany, because a group of passengers had allegedly not complied with the German national carrier’s mask regulations on the first leg of the flight,” The Times of Israel reported. “The passengers were also banned from purchasing another ticket to Budapest for 24 hours.”

A video reportedly taken by a passenger showed an alleged Lufthansa supervisor saying that “everybody has to pay for a couple,” adding, “It’s Jews coming from JFK. … It was the Jewish people who were the mess, who made the problems.”

The Jewish passengers were reportedly greeted at the gate by heavily armed police once the flight arrived in Germany.

The airline released the following statement on the matter:

On May 4, a large number of booked passengers were denied boarding on their onward flight with LH 1334 from Frankfurt to Budapest. Lufthansa regrets the circumstances surrounding the decision to exclude the affected passengers from the flight, for which Lufthansa sincerely apologizes.

While Lufthansa is still reviewing the facts and circumstances of that day, we regret that the large group was denied boarding rather than limiting it to the non-compliant guests. We apologize to all the passengers unable to travel on this flight, not only for the inconvenience, but also for the offense caused and personal impact.

Lufthansa and its employees stand behind the goal of connecting people and cultures worldwide. Diversity and equal opportunity are core values for our company and our corporate culture. What transpired is not consistent with Lufthansa’s policies or values. We have zero tolerance for racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination of any type. We will be engaging with the affected passengers to better understand their concerns and openly discuss how we may improve our customer service.

The statement generated backlash online with many saying that it was weak, did not go far enough in addressing what happened, and allegedly made false statements about the incident.

Notable responses included:

  • Seth Mandel, The Washington Examiner: “This doesn’t actually address ‘the affected passengers’ nor does it mention antisemitism except at the end as part of an AllLivesMatter statement. This is not, therefore, an apology–an apology being *the least* you owe those passengers. Try again.”
  • Dan Dayan, Former Consul General of Israel in New York: “Hello @lufthansa . You regret the ‘circumstances surrounding the decision’? Don’t you regret the decision itself? And your staff’s behavior? And their attitude and statements? This is not an apology. We expect you to do better. Not too late.”
  • Simcha Eichenstein, NYS Assembly Member: “It wasn’t a ‘large group’, it was individual Chasidic Jews that had nothing in common other than their religion that you blatantly discriminated against. The firsthand accounts I’ve heard are deeply disturbing. This ‘apology’ by @lufthansa is not even worth the piece of paper.”
  • Joel M. Petlin, Superintendent of the Kiryas Joel School District: “The @lufthansa *apology* continues to perpetuate the lie that the passengers on the flight were flying as a group. The only thing they had in common was their destination & their Jewish head coverings. Collective punishment is outrageous. Terminate the employees who approved it.”
  • “You discriminated against Jews like your Nazi founder, Kurt Weigelt, did 80 years ago. Fire ALL of the @lufthansa employees involved and issue an apology where you actually address the group you humiliated and discriminated against because this “apology” is pathetic at best!”

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