(photo credit: STEVE FITZGERALD/WIKIMEDIA)
Mandy Blumenthal was shocked when Kuwait Airways stopped her from buying a return ticket to Bangkok at London’s Heathrow Airport. At first, she received kind service from the airline’s representative, but an unexpected turn led to her suing the airlines.
The event occurred last November and now, after Blumenthal’s claim was picked up by the UK Lawyers for Israel, Kuwait Airways has agreed to pay Blumenthal damages and costs. They have not, however, admitted liability.
Once she presented her Israeli passport at the counter, service to Blumenthal was refused. The Kuwait Airways ticket clerk repeatedly said, as seen in the video documentation of the incident, “Israeli passport holders are not permitted to travel on Kuwait Airways.”
Blumenthal, shocked, turned to an airport supervisor at Heathrow who was equally baffled. The supervisor did not seem to understand how someone could be refused service because of their nationality.
Blumenthal claimed damages for racial discrimination and harassment. UK Lawyers for Israel, a voluntary organization of Israel-supporting lawyers, facilitated he lawsuit by organizing legal representation by barristers John Bowers QC, Benjamin Gray and David Berens.
“It is horrible to be singled out,” said Blumenthal. “In my mind, it is an antisemitic policy to single out the only Jewish State.”
“Ms. Blumenthal has done a service in showing up Kuwait Airways’ illegal policy,” Berens said. “Kuwait Airways is now legally obliged to end this policy or end its services from the UK altogether.”
There have been other complaints against Kuwait Airways. In one case, the Lawfare Project, a legal think tank and litigation fund that supports cases protesting antisemitic discrimination, filed a complaint against the airline in 2015.
Following that complaint, the US Department of Transportation ordered the airline to allow Israelis on its flights from the US to London or risk termination of its US operations.
In response, Kuwait Airways canceled all flights from New York to London.
When the Lawfare Project began another legal action against Kuwait Airways in Geneva, the company halted all internal European routes.
Another claim by the Lawfare Project was filed in Germany in relation to flights from Frankfurt to Bangkok via Kuwait. The Frankfurt court rejected the claim
, triggering controversy. An appeal hearing is scheduled in September.
“It’s hard to believe that in 2018, an airline operating at Heathrow can ban passengers on no other basis than their nationality,” said Lawfare Project director Brooke Goldstein. “The airline’s discriminatory policy should have no place in a free society.”
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