Kuwait Airways has ended its New York to London flight in the wake of a legal dispute about discrimination. (Photo: Kuwait Airways/Facebook)
Claims of anti-Semitism are being thrown at Kuwait Airways, which has eliminated its route from JFK International Airport in New York to London Heathrow. The decision to scrap the flight was influenced by an ongoing legal dispute that began in 2013, when an Israeli citizen, Eldad Gatt, complained to the U.S. Department of Transportation because Kuwait Airways’ online booking system prevented him from selecting Israel as his passport-issuing country and therefore did not allow him to fly on the airline.
As reported in Ynet News, the DOT claims that Kuwait Airways is breaking federal law by not selling tickets to Israeli citizens. In a letter sent to the airline in October, Blane Workie, DOT assistant general counsel for enforcement, stated: “We expect (Kuwait Airways) to sell tickets to and transport Israeli citizens between the US and any third country where they are allowed to disembark based on the laws of that country.”
Some are claiming that the airline’s policy amounts to anti-Semitism, and the New York Post went so far as to publish a headline calling the airline “Jew-hating.” But the airline counters that its decision is not discriminatory; that it will sell tickets to passengers regardless of race, religion, or citizenship, as long as the passenger holds a passport that is valid in Kuwait. According to Kuwait law, business with Israelis is prohibited and thus the airline cannot recognize Israeli passports.
This is not a problem on flights that land in Kuwait, because Israeli citizens are not allowed to enter the country; the issue comes up only when an Israel-passport holder wants to travel on a Kuwait Airways flight that lands in a different country, like the leg between NYC and London. (And this flight is the only one from the US that does not land in Kuwait.)
In November, the airline petitioned the Federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to review the dispute, and in the meantime it announced this week that it would cancel its JFK–Heathrow flight.