Lufthansa denied boarding to more than 100 Jewish passengers in Frankfurt, Germany on May 4. The men were not allowed to board flight #LH1334 from Frankfurt to Budapest, Hungary, a continuation of a flight from NY JFK.
A ‘couple’ of Orthodox Jews failed to meet Lufthansa’s mask requirements on the JFK flight. But in Frankfurt, dozens of people were denied boarding, imposed by German police armed with submachine guns in an incident decried as collective punishment.
They were part of a group of 150 Orthodox Jews who had flown on Lufthansa from New York on flight LH401 (a Boeing 747-8) to the Frankfurt air hub, where they would transfer on a flight to Budapest.
The men, many of whom were traveling separately, were on a religious pilgrimage to a Hungarian town formerly known as Kerestir. There they were celebrating the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Yeshaya Steiner, a Hasidic leader of thousands considered a miracle worker.
While “some” of the passengers had violated the German mask mandate, “more than a hundred” men were denied boarding passes, most of whom, according to TUSEN, were “wearing Orthodox Jewish clothing or had Jewish-sounding names. According to popular points and miles blog DansDeals, which originally reported on the incident, “two dozen armed police ensured that no Jews boarded the flight or caused trouble at the gate.” .
A passenger thought it was a clear case of anti-Semitism by Lufthansa employees. Nachman Kahana said: “They explicitly said that no one who is dressed the same on this plane will board the Lufthansa plane to Budapest. They banned us because we are Jews. That’s the only reason.
Lufthansa disputed those claims, saying the men weren’t allowed on board because of their failure to follow German mask rules. But a phone video emerged, with a Lufthansa supervisor tell a Jewish passenger that those who have been banished are “Jews from JFK”. The supervisor was recorded saying “It was the Jews who made the mess, who created the problems, everyone has to pay for a couple.”
A week after the incident, Lufthansa finally officially apologized, the Twitter.
“Lufthansa regrets the circumstances surrounding the decision to exclude the affected passengers from the flight, for which Lufthansa apologizes. While Lufthansa is still reviewing the facts and circumstances of this day, we regret that the large group was denied the boarding rather than limiting it to non-compliant passengers.
“What happened is not in line with Lufthansa policies or values. We have zero tolerance for racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination of any kind.
The boilerplate excuses have satisfied few people. DansDeals pointed to nine issues with the apology, including failure to acknowledge “anti-Semitic hate speech” and “racial profiling of more than 130 passengers,” not to mention the pilot’s refusal to carry Jewish passengers to Budapest.
The Anti-Defamation League tweeted: “This lack of an apology does not admit guilt or identify the banned passengers as Jewish. He also refers to them as a group, although many were strangers. They had one thing in common: to be visibly Jewish.
“In addition to investigating, ensuring accountability and taking action to repair harm, including compensating victims where possible, Lufthansa, as a German company, has a special responsibility to educate its staff.”
ADL Director Emeritus Abraham Foxman was a hidden child during the Holocaust. He tweeted: “Lufthansa needs to take a deep breath and take a serious look at its culture that condones such recent outrageous anti-Semitic behavior by its staff. The apologies also need a serious overhaul. Germany has to do better – it can do better – a lot of people are waiting.”
Finally, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr came to fruition in a private video call with Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal, Rabbi of the Jewish Community of Berlin. DansDeals quoted Spohr as saying “this incident should never have happened and the employees involved have been suspended, pending the airline’s investigation into what happened.”
Spohr also reportedly noted “that the airline’s refusal to carry the Jews on the flight was not acceptable and that the words used by the Lufthansa employee about punishing all of the Jews on the flight for the sins of a few -some were not company policy or acceptable behavior.
How the private phone call will result in further action by Lufthansa is unclear.
COVID-19 has already resulted in ugly racial prejudice, such as slurs and violence against Asians in the United States. Battles over masks have resulted in injuries to flight attendants and passengers, arrests and fines.
Airlines are not creating COVID-19 mask mandates. Government health services, such as the CDC in the United States, do. But airline staff are enforcing the warrants, a process that led to thousands of unruly passenger incidents across the United States until a federal judge struck down the CDC mask mandate as too broad on April 18. . The Biden administration has been making noise to sue to reinstate the domestic mask mandate, but so far that hasn’t happened.
For people to comply with a mask mandate, they need to feel that it will apply evenly and fairly to everyone. On a recent flight, I saw no conflict between passengers wearing masks and those not wearing them.
But instead of punishing a few people who refused to comply with the mask mandate, Lufthansa denied boarding to more than a hundred passengers because they were “visibly Jewish”.
Injustices took place in the airline industry long before COVID-19. But when they do occur, especially if they involve discrimination based on religion, race, gender, sexuality, national origin or other characteristics, they cannot be excused or ignored. They must be dealt with, studied and excused.