Lufthansa paying $21,000 to Jewish passengers who suffered humiliation, antisemitism

More than 100 American Jews will receive compensation for what was deemed an antisemitic incident of collective punishment.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

More than 100 visibly Jewish passengers who were denied permission to board a Lufthansa flight in May are receiving $21,000 each in compensation from the airline, travel website Dan’s Deals reported Wednesday.

Once legal fees are deducted, the final amount rendered as an apology will be $17,400, said the website, which originally broke the story.

“For various reasons,” not all of the 127 ultra-Orthodox passengers who were not allowed at the boarding gate in Frankfurt, Germany, to catch their connecting flight from New York to Budapest were part of the settlement, the site reported. The sums involved still add up to at least a $2 million loss for Lufthansa, besides the bad publicity it absorbed from the incident.

“Although we are not commenting on the details, we can confirm that Lufthansa endeavors to settle the claims with all of the passengers denied boarding on May 4th, 2022,” the company said in a statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA).

The travelers were told that they could not board the plane because they were not wearing masks, as was the rule at the time due to fears of Covid-19 infection. While a few Jews had not worn them on the first leg of the flight, the passengers, who were not traveling together, said there were non-Jews as well who were defying the requirement, yet they were not prevented from traveling.

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The complainants charged that they had been denied as a group simply because they were visibly Jewish. The charge of antisemitism grew legs after a Jewish passenger recorded and uploaded to social media a Lufthansa agent at the gate admitting the refusal was an act of collective punishment.

Asked why it was “only the Jewish people paying for other people’s crimes,” the agent can be seen responding, “because it’s Jews coming from JFK [airport in New York].” When the passenger expressed his shock, the agent responded: “If you want to do it like this, Jewish people who were the mess, who made the problems.”

The incredulous passenger then asked: “So Jewish people on the plane made a problem, so all Jews are banned from Lufthansa for the day?” The agent answered: “Just from this flight.”

Lufthansa then apologized “to all the passengers unable to travel on this flight, not only for the inconvenience, but also for the offense caused and personal impact.” While stating that Lufthansa had “zero tolerance” for antisemitism, the airline did not say whether disciplinary action would be taken against personnel who had engaged in the discriminatory behavior.

Neither did Lufthansa’s statement mention the fact, as reported by Dan’s Deals at the time, that “over two dozen police officers, some of whom were holding submachine guns,” roped off the Jewish passengers, making for what was described as “a terrifying scene.”

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Public pressure led to German lawmakers demanding an investigation over the incident. Lufthansa then announced that it would create a position in senior management to prevent incidents of antisemitism and discrimination, and formally adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism.