Kuwait Airways nixes NY-London route to avoid catering to Israelis

A Kuwait Airways plan. Credit: Steve Fitzgerald via Wikimedia Commons.

(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) Kuwait Airways has closed its New York-London route in the aftermath of a U.S. Transportation Department demand that the airline stop illegally discriminating against Israelis through its policy of refusing to sell them tickets, USA Today reported Tuesday.

The Transportation Department had sent the airline a letter in September, warning it to end its discriminatory policy after the revelation of a 2013 incident in which Israeli Jewish citizen Eldad Gatt attempted to purchase a ticket on the airline’s online booking system, and was refused.

Gatt filed a complaint with the Transportation Department, saying he had been unable to buy a ticket from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport to London’s Heathrow Airport through Kuwait Airways because the airline’s online booking system prevented him from selecting “Israel” as his passport-issuing country.

The department investigated and initially rejected Gatt’s discrimination complaint. But when Gatt appealed, the case was reopened and the department ultimately concluded that the airline had violated a different federal law than the one initially cited by Gatt.

Kuwait Airways explained that since the airline was a state-owned company, it must abide by the laws of that state, which prohibit any agreements with “entities or persons residing in Israel, or with Israeli citizenship.”

The Transportation Department on Tuesday confirmed that Kuwait Airways had informed authorities it would drop the route and has filed a countersuit against the federal department. If the airline wins in court, it could potentially resume the New York-London flights.

The airline’s attorney said the Transportation Department lawsuit would not hold up in court, since the policy was based on citizenship—not religion—and that a Muslim with an Israeli passport would also not be allowed on Kuwait Airways flights.

Posted on December 17, 2015 .