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Airline kills U.S. route to avoid serving Jews

An international airline has dropped its New York-to-London route to avoid selling tickets to Jews.

Kuwait Airways canceled the route after the U.S. government ordered the company based in the Muslim nation to lift the prohibition.

WND reported in November that lawyer Jeffrey A. Lovitky pursued the complaint on behalf of a Jewish traveler who was refused service.

“Kuwait Airways is acting at the explicit direction of the government of Kuwait in excluding Israeli citizens from its flights between New York and London,” he told WND.

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The carrier bans Jews from its flights to Muslim nations that don’t allow Jews to enter. But that’s not an issue on the flight from New York to London, Lovitky argued.

The New York Post reported Kuwait Airways announced Dec. 15 it canceled the route, explaining it can’t allow Israelis on the flight because Kuwait prohibits its citizens from doing business with citizens of the Jewish state.

The move was pre-emptive, as U.S. officials were preparing to withdraw the airline’s permission to fly to New York.

The airline several times has refused to let travelers who hold passports from Israel buy tickets on New York-to-London flights.

“If you’re so anti-Semitic that you would rather cancel a flight than provide service to Israeli passport holders, then good riddance,” Councilman Rory Lancman told the Post.

He said it is unconscionable that Kuwait would discriminate against Israelis when it was the United States, including its Jewish soldiers, that liberated the nation from Saddam Hussein in the early 1990s.

The airline said it will still fly from New York City to Kuwait. Since Kuwait denies entry to Israelis, citizens of the Jewish state can’t buy tickets on that flight.

It was Eldad Gatt, an Israeli citizen, who had tried to buy a ticket on the New York-to-London flight in the fall of 2013.

His lawyer said his lawsuit against the airline over its discrimination will continue.

Lovitky several years ago also exposed a similar practice by Delta Airlines that was due to a code-sharing arrangement with Saudi Arabian Airlines.

He told WND: “The Kuwaiti government’s embrace of the Arab boycott of Israel is a manifestation of its deep hostility toward the Jewish people. I call upon the Congress to make it a crime for any company to boycott Israeli citizens, when such boycott is at the direction of a foreign government.

“And I call upon the secretary of transportation to emphatically reject this manifestation of bigotry against the Jewish people, by immediately terminating Kuwait Airways permit to fly between the United States and the United Kingdom,” he said.

Lovitky said he filed a formal complaint with the Department of Transportation in 2013 alleging illegal discrimination. It was rejected because Kuwait Airways “was required to follow Kuwait law.”

But he said when he filed a lawsuit on behalf of Gatt, the decision ultimately was reversed.

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The lawsuit cited federal law that holds that “an air carrier or foreign air carrier may not subject a person, place, port, or type of traffic in foreign air transportation to unreasonable discrimination.”

U.S. investigators ultimately concluded: “After a thorough review of the information provided by the parties, we find that KAC unreasonably discriminated against Mr. Gatt in violation of 48 U.S.C. [Paragraph] 41310 by refusing to sell him a ticket on its flight from JFK to LHR. Our conclusion that KAC unreasonably discriminated against Mr. Gatt is based on the history and intent of … case law, and the permit authority granted to KAC to engage in scheduled foreign air transportation.”

The DOT letter said, “A common carrier is ‘obliged to carry all persons who apply for passage, if the accommodations are sufficient, unless there is a proper excuse for refusal.'”

The instructions continued, “In cases interpreting the common law non-discrimination duty of common carriers, the Supreme Court has upheld the common carrier duty not to discriminate on the basis of race using the unreasonable discrimination standard under the Interstate Commerce Act.”

The letter said: “We have applied these principles to determine whether KAC’s refusal to sell a ticket to Mr. Gatt from JFK to LHR on the basis of his Israeli citizenship is unreasonable discrimination. KAC contends that its denial …. is reasonable because Kuwaiti law prohibits the carrier from selling a ticket to an Israeli passport holder. KAC emphasizes that the statutory penalties for violation of the Kuwaiti law include imprisonment with hard labor, in addition to a fine, as evidence that it cannot comply with U.S. law.

“This is not a proper justification for the denial of transportation as the penalties that allegedly have compelled KAC’s conduct are part of a discriminatory statutory scheme. … Moreover, this complaint does not involve travel to a country where the complainant is not allowed to disembark based on the laws of that country.”

The airline and its legal representation did not respond to WND requests for comment.

“There is no question that a person holding a valid Israeli passport can depart the U.S. and enter the United Kingdom. As such, we find that it is unreasonable discrimination for KAC to refuse transport to Israeli citizens between the U.S. and a third country where their passports are recognized as valid travel documents and they are allowed to disembark based on the laws of that country,” the DOT letter told the airline.

WND reported several years ago, after Lovitky had fought for access by Israelis to Saudi Arabian Airlines, that Bill de Blasio, then a candidate for mayor, blasted the airline for its position.

Lovitky also challenged Delta Airlines when it was working under a cooperative agreement with Saudi Arabia to feature flights directly to the kingdom. Delta was asking passengers about their religious affiliation, since Saudi Arabia does not allow Jews to enter.

Eventually, Delta agreed not to ask the questions.