German carrier Lufthansa prohibited a large group of ultra-Orthodox Jews from boarding a connecting flight from Frankfurt to Budapest last Wednesday, after a number of Jewish passengers failed to comply with mask rules on their initial journey from New York.
The incident has sparked outrage in the Haredi community, drawing anger and condemnations as well as accusations of antisemitism. Lufthansa issued an apology for the incident on Tuesday.
With few exceptions, “only Jews onboard the flight were denied boarding on their connecting flights, while non-Jews from the flight had no issues,” according to travel site DansDeals.
DansDeals posted multiple videos of the incident online and cited multiple passengers who described Lufthansa blocking dozens of “visibly Jewish” passengers. They told some of them they were forbidden from traveling on to Hungary with Lufthansa for a full day because they were part of “the group from NYC,” even if they were traveling independently.
“It was Jewish people who were the mess, who made the problems,” a Lufthansa employee can be heard saying in a video taken at the airport by one of the passengers and shared by DansDeals.
“So Jewish people on the plane made a problem so all Jews are banned from Lufthansa for the day?” the passenger could be heard asking. “Just from this flight” the employee answered, stating that this had been an “upper management” decision.
“If you feel you have to punish individuals who didn’t comply, that’s fine,” one passenger told the New York Jewish Week. “But you can’t just punish an entire race just because we all look alike.”
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In one video posted online, an armed policeman called to the gate can be seen confronting angry passengers and demanding to know which one of them had just called him a Nazi.
Agudath Israel of America, an umbrella group representing American ultra-Orthodox Jews, condemned the incident and demanded clarification from the airline.
“For innocent passengers to be penalized for the alleged actions of others who share their ethnicity or religion is simply unacceptable, indeed abhorrent, here, no less than were the mistreated passengers African, Asian or Scandinavian,” the group said in a statement, complaining that “two dozen heavily armed police officers were positioned to enforce that decision.”
"While Lufthansa is still reviewing the facts and circumstances of that day, we regent that the large group was denied boarding rather than limiting it to the non complaint guests," the German airliner wrote in a statement Tuesday. "We apologize to all the passengers unable to travel on this flight, not only for the inconvenience, but also for the offense cause and personal impact," the statement added.
Reached for comment earlier on Tuesday, Lufthansa told DansDeals that “a larger group of passengers could not be carried … because the travelers refused to wear the legally mandated mask (medical mask) on board.”
“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,” it said in a statement.
“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.”