Kuwait Airways to Pay Israeli Passenger It Refused Because of Nationality

Aug 8, 2018

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Kuwait Airways will pay an Israeli citizen whom it barred from flying based on her nationality.

Last November, Mandy Blumenthal was barred from purchasing a ticket on a Kuwait Airways flight from London (LHR) to Bangkok (BKK) via Kuwait (KWI). Blumenthal was at the Kuwait Airways ticket counter in Heathrow airport, where she attempted to purchase a ticket to go on vacation. After the Kuwait agent saw her Israeli passport, she was repeatedly told that “Israeli passport holders are not permitted to travel on Kuwait Airways.”

UK Lawyers for Israel, a group of lawyers who support Israel, organized a case on behalf of Blumenthal, citing damages for racial discrimination and harassment.

“Kuwait Airways has agreed to pay substantial damages plus costs to an Israeli National who was refused a ticket on a Kuwait Airways flight from London to Bangkok on the grounds of her nationality,” UK Lawyers for Israel said in a statement.

Blumenthal is a pro-Israel activist and captured the event on video. It appears to have been set up, with Blumenthal knowing what would happen when she presented her Israeli passport.

“It is horrible to be singled out, to be told you are not allowed to do something because of who you are,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “Having someone telling me that he is following instructions, that it is a rule, a policy, gave me a sinking feeling inside. In my mind, it is an anti-Semitic policy to single out the only Jewish state to boycott.”

Although Kuwait Airways will compensate Blumenthal, it did not acknowledge its liability in the dispute.

A 1964 Kuwaiti law was the basis for Kuwait Airways’ decision to not ticket the passenger — since the rule bars Kuwaiti citizens from doing business with Israeli citizens.

Last year, a German court ruled on similar incident, declaring that it was legal for the airline to refuse service to Israeli citizens. The controversial decision is being appealed.

“The law is clear: direct discrimination on grounds of nationality in the provision of a service to the public is illegal,” Blumenthal’s lawyer David Berens said in a statement. “Ms. Blumenthal has done a service in showing up Kuwait Airways’ illegal policy. Kuwait Airways is now legally obliged to end this policy or end its services from the UK altogether.”

The carrier has already lost routes because of the discriminatory rule. In 2015 the airline had to end its New York (JFK) – London route because the US ordered the airline to allow Israelis onto flights. It ended all intra-European flights after a Swiss court ruled against the airline in 2016.

TPG attempted to reach Kuwait Airways for comment but the airline did not respond by the time of publication.

Reports from 2013 and 2014 indicate that Saudia, Saudi Arabia’s national carrier, won’t fly Israeli citizens either. Even when we tried to purchase a ticket on Saudia’s website, from New York JFK to Mumbai (BOM), there was no option to indicate the passenger’s nationality as Israeli.

TPG also reached out to Saudia for comment, but has not heard back by time of publication.

Featured image by Alberto Riva / The Points Guy.

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