Lufthansa apology to Jewish passengers called inadequate; Jews were roped off in a ‘terrifying scene’

Calls are mounting for Germany’s anti-discrimination office to investigate.

By David Hellerman, World Israel News

Lufthansa, Germany’s flag carrier, apologized for preventing more than 100 Orthodox Jews from boarding a flight over a masking dispute. But critics have panned the apology as inadequate.

The affair began on Wednesday when 127 Jews traveling in separate groups were barred from boarding a connecting flight at Frankfurt Airport.

The airliner said that some of the Jews who were passengers on flight LH401 from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport had refused wear masks.

When the time came for boarding flight LH1334 bound for Budapest, all the identifiable Jewish passengers were prevented from entering. They were also barred from boarding any Lufthansa flight for 24 hours.

The passengers argued that this was collective punishment and antisemitic discrimination. Most of the Jews on the New York flight had been wearing masks appropriately, and they were not traveling together as a single group.

According to Dan’s Deals, the travel website that broke the story, the only two Jews allowed aboard the flight to Budapest were not identifiably Jewish; they were wearing baseball caps and polo shirts.

The website also reported that a number of the Jewish passengers were travelling to the grave of Rabbi Yeshaya Steiner, a venerated pre-World War II Hasidic rabbi who is buried in Bodrogkeresztúr, in northeast Hungary.

Lufthansa ‘still reviewing the facts’

Lufthansa issued a statement on Tuesday expressing regret, but critics said it did not go far enough as an apology.

“While Lufthansa is still reviewing the facts and circumstances of that day, we regret that the large group was denied boarding rather than limiting it to the non-compliant guests,” the airline said in a statement.

“We apologize to all the passengers unable to travel on this flight, not only for the inconvenience, but also for the offense caused and personal impact.

“The airline and its employees stand behind the goal of connecting people and cultures worldwide. Diversity and equal opportunity are core values for our company and our corporate culture. What transpired is not consistent with Lufthansa’s policies or values. We have zero-tolerance for racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination of any type.”

Dan’s Deals panned the apology in a follow-up report, pointing out that Lufthansa only expressed regret for the circumstances, not for the decisions made by the airline staff.

The site also noted that barring Jews identifiable by their clothing from boarding amounted to discriminatory profiling, which was not included in Lufthansa’s apology.

Lufthansa’s original statement to Dan’s Deals falsely implied that none of the Jewish passengers complied with masking requirements when in actuality, it was only a small number who did not comply.

The statement also falsely claimed that all the Jewish passengers were put on the next available flight.

One Lufthansa staffer was caught on video saying “Jewish people who were the mess, who made the problems” and that the decision to bar the passengers was made by upper management. The video, which was posted on social media, was not referred to in Lufthansa’s statement.

‘A terrifying scene’

One of the Hassidic passengers, Usher Schick, told Dan’s Deals that he had been told by one of Lufthansa’s gate agents that the captain of the Budapest flight refused to fly any visible Jews. According to Schick, the gate agent argued against the ban but was told the captain made the final decision.

Dan’s Deals added that “over two dozen police officers, some of whom were holding submachine guns,” roped off the Jewish passengers making for what it described as “a terrifying scene,” which Lufthansa’s statement did not mention.

One German lawmaker raised the possibility of Lufthansa being investigated for the incident. In an email to the Washington Post, Bundestag member Marlene Schoenberger wrote, “If the allegations turn out to be true, there must be consequences.”

Marlene Schoenberger, a member of the German Green Party, is tasked with combating antisemitism.

Calls are mounting for Germany’s anti-discrimination office to investigate.