A legal case has been filed in a German court accusing Kuwait of antisemitic discrimination – the second such case brought against the government-owned Kuwaiti flag-carrier in Germany. On this occasion, an Israeli businessman who booked flights from Munich to Sri Lanka via Kuwait City was denied the right to fly with the airline after he made an enquiry about the availability of Kosher meals – a special meal request that is widely available on the vast majority of airlines.
A separate case which was originally filed in a German court in 2017 caused a public outcry in Germany but that case is still under review by Germany’s Constitutional High Court. If Kuwait Airways loses the case, German authorities may ban the airline from flying to or from Germany.
In other cases, legal pressure in both the United States and Switzerland led to Kuwait Airways abandoning its London Heathrow (LHR) to New York City (JFK) service and other fifth-freedom flights rather than comply with anti-discrimination laws.
Kuwait Airways says it cannot carry anyone with Israeli citizenship because of a law in its home country that bans any Kuwaiti citizen or company from doing business with Israel or its citizens. Legal experts said the airline could not rely on this law to discriminate against Israelis when it operated fifth-freedom flights – the legal implications of direct flights between Kuwait and a second country are more unclear.
After suspending its London Heathrow (LHR) to New York City (JFK) service, the carrier instead operated flights via Shannon, Ireland for a fuel stop without picking up passengers. Kuwait Airlines then started direct services between Kuwait City and JFK in January 2019.
The new case against Kuwait Airways is being brought by the Lawfare Project, which describes itself as a ‘legal think tank and litigation fund representing the civil and human rights of Jewish communities’ on behalf of the passenger who is only known as Shmuel M. The Lawfare Project explains the case…
“Shmuel M booked business class tickets from Munich to Colombo, which was the quickest flight to Sri Lanka available from that airport. When Shmuel M asked about the availability of kosher food on the flight, the airline asked whether he held an Israeli passport. When he confirmed that he did, he was told that he would be unable to travel and would need to speak to the airline’s lawyers for further information.”
“Time and again Kuwait Airways has shown itself to be a bigoted airline with a bigoted policy that should have no place in a modern liberal democracy,” commented Brooke Goldstein, Executive Director of The Lawfare Project.
“An airline that kicks Israelis off planes should be kicked out of Germany,” he continued.
“When a Jewish passenger is denied the right to travel after requesting a kosher meal, in Germany of all places, then anyone who respects the values of equality, fairness, and the rule of law should be appalled.”
This is a really interesting case and it will certainly pile pressure on Kuwait Airways. Authorities in various countries have been grappling with how to deal with different types of discrimination committed by companies and service providers – for example, should small business owners be allowed to ban LGBTQ customers because of their religious beliefs, no matter how deeply held?
I know where I stand on this subject – what do you think?