Kuwait Airways Shamefully Drops New York-London Route To Avoid Serving Israelis

Back in October, I reported that Kuwait Airways, which operates flights between New York and London, was refusing to sell tickets to customers with Israeli passports, citing Kuwaiti law, which forbids doing business with Israelis. After first ignoring the complaint of an Israeli traveler, Eldad Gatt, the Department of Transportation eventually did the right thing, determining that the airline’s policy violated US law, which prohibits unreasonable discrimination. Since then, the airline petitioned for review, but the Department rejected its petition and instructed the airline to cease and desist from further violations of the law.

Kuwait Airways has now announced that it will cancel the service rather than comply with US law, according to reports. The article also indicated that the airline “has filed a countersuit against the federal department.” If that’s so, I haven’t been able to find the “countersuit,” which seems like a misnomer in any case.

On the legal issue, the airline’s main point seems to be that the US government cannot permissibly order the airline to violate Kuwaiti law. Hogwash. The flight in question was flying to and from the United States, and of course the United States can regulate common carriers that operate here. If the airline, instead of operating Judenrein (or at least Israeli-free) flights, had a sign saying “no black passengers permitted,” and it claimed that Kuwaiti law required the sign, I don’t believe its lawyers would make the argument they are making with a straight face. Is the excuse that this is discrimination based on national origin rather than discrimination based on race or religion? Give me a break.

About Ted Folkman

Ted Folkman is a shareholder with Murphy & King, a Boston law firm, where he has a complex business litigation practice. He is the author of International Judicial Assistance (MCLE 2012), a nuts-and-bolts guide to international judicial assistance issues, and of the chapter on service of process in the ABA's forthcoming treatise on International Aspects of US Litigation, and he is the publisher of Letters Blogatory, the Web's first blog devoted to international judicial assistance, which the ABA recognized as one of the best 100 legal blogs in 2012, 2014, and 2015.

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