Lufthansa has been accused of discrimination against a large group of Jewish travelers, including a mass ethnic-based flight ban for the mask violations of a handful of passengers. What actually happened onboard LH401? Did Lufthansa really target Jews for denied boarding on the basis of their appearance instead of their individual behavior?
Lufthansa Accused Of Discrimination Against Jewish Travelers
This story has been documented in extreme deal by DansDeals. I would encourage you to check out Dan’s investigation if you really want to understand every detail from the perspective of multiple passengers. However, here is a condensed version:
- The incident occurred on Lufthansa 401 from New York (JFK) to Frankfurt (FRA) on Wednesday, May 4, 2022 onboard a Boeing 747-8
- As many as 170 Orthodox Jews were traveling on the flight, with many connecting to Budapest to visit the grave of Rabbi Yeshaya Steiner of Kerestir
- This included a trio of group bookings as well as many individual bookings
- Some Jewish passengers onboard refused to wear masks despite repeated reminders from flight attendants
- These Orthodox passengers also apparently annoyed flight attendants by performing prayer in the galley, leading to a warning from the captain over the PA that the passengers were not to block galley and had to wear masks or else they would “have a problem” with their connecting flight
- Upon landing in Frankfurt, passengers connecting to Budapest were individually paged, with most (but not all) Jewish passengers denied boarding for their onward flight to Budaepest
- The Budapest flight took off with less than 20 passengers, operated by an aircraft that could handle 192 passengers
- A gate agent allegedly told a passenger that this was at the insistence of the captain, who decided he did not want to risk any trouble on the flight to Budapest
- Armed police officers surrounded the gate area and shielded Lufthansa agents from direct questioning over why all passengers who seemingly appeared Jewish were being denied boarding for the mask violations of a few
- One angry passenger called a police officer a Nazi, which is a crime in Germany
- Passengers were rebooked on later flights, with many not being permitted to travel until the following day
Disturbingly, the following exchange was captured on video:
Passenger: This is gruesome.
Lufthansa: It would have been if you were African, if you were Polander.
Passenger: I was wearing a mask the entire time, why am I lumped in with them?
Lufthansa: It was one, everyone has to pay for a couple.
Passenger: What do you mean everybody, everybody from that race? Everybody else on the flight went.
Lufthansa: Not everybody.
Passenger: The non-Jewish people on the flight went. Why are only the Jewish people paying for other people’s crimes?
Lufthansa: Because it’s Jews coming from JFK.
Passenger: Oh, so Jewish people coming from JFK are paying for the crimes of a few people?
Passenger: Jewish people are paying for the crimes of Israel?
Passenger: Just the Jewish people on that flight?
Lufthansa: Do you want to discuss with me or no? Do you want to listen to me?
Passenger: I’m like shocked beyond, never in my adult life. I’ve never heard this.
Lufthansa: If you want to do it like this, Jewish people who were the mess, who made the problems.
Passenger: So Jewish people on the plane made a problem, so all Jews are banned from Lufthansa for the day?
Lufthansa: Just for this flight.
Banning ALL Jews from a flight because of an alleged mask violation by some Jewish passengers is textbook antisemitism from @Lufthansa.
While this is infuriating, the airline’s apathetic response to this incident is equally shocking. pic.twitter.com/CAbIVFlCfN
— American Jewish Committee (@AJCGlobal) May 9, 2022
My Own Observations On Discrimination In Germany
One of the things that has always given me pause is how openly discriminatory Germany is. Note very carefully, I’m not equating racism to discrimination: there is a difference and not all discrimination is necessarily racism.
During the European refugee crisis and even more recently on flights from developing nations, heavily armed German federal police officers would meet flights at the gate. White people are allowed into the terminal without documents being checked while dark skinned people are pulled aside and must furnish their papers before even being allowed into the arrivals hall.
Same thing on trains. On multiple occasions when we passed the Swiss-German border into Germany, I witnessed dark skinned people being asked for their passports but I never was.
Why bring this up? Because I’ve witnessed so much discrimination in Germany that it does make me more likely to believe a story that sounds so horrible both in and out of context. Did Sippenhaft occur here? We cannot foreclose that possibility.
Statement From Lufthansa
Folks, I took a look at this issue with an open mind, wondering if it was another Westin Leipzig incident (initial claims by Gil Ofarim of horrible anti-semitism were later determined to be false). This does not appear so. Lufthansa has released a detailed statement (below), but it really doesn’t justify the stinging words of the gate agent above.
We confirm that a larger group of passengers could not be carried yesterday on Lufthansa flight LH1334 from Frankfurt to Budapest, because the travelers refused to wear the legally mandated mask (medical mask) on board.
By German law, Lufthansa, similar to any and all carriers operating in Germany, is obliged to follow the legal requirements of this mandate. In the new German Infection Protection Act, the obligation to wear a mask remains in place in public transport and thus also on board flights, as well as across all aspects of air transport. Medical or FFP2 masks must therefore continue to be worn on board Lufthansa flights, at all times.
For legal reasons we cannot disclose the number of guests involved in the incident, however Lufthansa has rebooked the guests on the next available flight to their final destination. A prerequisite for transportation is that the travelers complied with the mask mandate, which is a legal requirement.
As safety and security of our passengers and staff is our top priority, Lufthansa will continue to abide by all legal requirements, including the mask mandate imposed by the German government and those of the countries served. We do so without prejudice and with the wellbeing of all our guests.
One other comment: it does not appear many were accommodated on the “next available flight.”
What remains unseen, and is very important in understanding this case, is the extent of the mask violations on the New York – Frankfurt flight. Was it truly just a small number of passengers or was it far more, making it very difficult to identify individual violators? Even that would not necessarily justify the manner in which Lufthansa handled the incident, but would help provide us more context.
Collective group punishment for individual crimes is not acceptable. The optics of this happening in Germany are even worse. There is only one situation I can imagine in which a “group” punishment is appropriate: if the entire group was in repeated violation of the mask rules. That does not appear to be the case, though it will be important to track whether Lufthansa offers any further explanation for the way in which it handled the incident.
If the decision to deny boarding to a group of travelers based upon their religious or ethnic identity was made by one captain, Lufthansa also needs to re-evaluate its process for denying passengers boarding. That concentrates too much powers in the hands of one person.
Interestingly, this is not the first such incident in Western Europe. KLM and Delta were accused of anti-Semitism last year for denying a large group of Jewish students from boarding, also justifying its decision on the basis of the failure of members of the Jewish group to wear masks.
> Read More: Delta Air Lines Throws Off 18 Jewish Girls…For Eating Onboard At The “Wrong” Time
> Read More: More Details Emerge On The Strange Case Of 18 Jewish Girls Booted From KLM And Delta Flights