Lufthansa apologizes for barring Jewish passengers after mask dispute

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German carrier Lufthansa has apologized for blocking a large number of Jewish passengers from a connecting flight from Frankfurt.

The apology stems from a May 4 incident in which some Orthodox Jewish travelers on an inbound flight from New York allegedly refused crew instructions to wear masks, which is required by Lufthansa. Next, in an apparent attempt to bar those flyers from a connecting flight to Hungary, Lufthansa allegedly denied boarding to all passengers who appeared to be Jewish.

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Some of those singled out were identified visually by kippahs or sidelocks and others by Jewish-sounding last names, according to reports.

The carrier’s actions prompted a backlash that included charges of discrimination and antisemitism.

Lufthansa issued an apology for the incident Tuesday, saying:

Lufthansa regrets the circumstances surrounding the decision to exclude the affected passengers from the flight, for which Lufthansa sincerely apologizes. 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.

Lufthansa’s apology came a week after the incident, which was first reported by the DansDeals website, which tracks flight bargains. Video posted to the site showed what appeared to be a Lufthansa agent saying boarding was being denied to a large group of passengers because they appeared to be Jewish.

“Everybody has to pay for a couple,” the agent is quoted as saying in the video, apparently referring to those who did not comply with the carrier’s mask rules. “It was Jewish people who were the mess, who made the problems.”

The story has been widely reported, including coverage from German outlets, as well as U.S. publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.

“What transpired is not consistent with Lufthansa’s policies or values,” Lufthansa continued in its statement of apology. “We have zero tolerance for racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination of any type.”

Still, the carrier’s words were not enough for many – including the Anti-Defamation League, which advocates against discrimination.

“This non-apology fails to admit fault or identify the banned passengers as Jews,” the ADL said in response to Lufthansa’s statement. “It also refers to them as a group, even though many were strangers. They had one commonality — being visibly Jewish.”

Featured photo by CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images

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