Kuwait Airlines Case: Airline Settles Discrimination Case In London
Posted on August 8, 2018
I’ve written several times about the Kuwait Airlines case, which over time has sprouted several cases. In the US case, the airline, citing Kuwaiti law (which forbids it to do business with Israelis), refused to carry an Israeli passenger from New York to London. The dispute was crystallized as an administrative dispute—the Department of Transportation determined that application of the Kuwaiti law to a passenger seeking to fly from New York to London was illegal under US law. Rather than complying with the law, the airline dropped its New York/London route altogether. It sought review of the administrative decision in the DC Circuit, but the petition was made moot by the decision to drop the service. I don’t know whether the aggrieved Israeli passenger brought a civil lawsuit in the United States, and if so, what’s its status.
Later I noted a German decision that came out the other way. That case had some distinguishing features: the German law forbade discrimination on racial, ethnic, or religious grounds but not on grounds of nationality or citizenship (not too persuasive), and, more persuasively to my eyes, the journey involved a layover in Kuwait. If the passenger would not be allowed to travel to Kuwait under Kuwaiti law, then I think the law should not require the airline to sell the passenger a ticket for such a journey. (I am not clear on whether Kuwait requires a passport or visa for transiting passengers).
The Times of Israel now reports that the airline has settled a similar claim arising out of its refusal to sell a ticket to an Israeli passenger who wanted to fly from London to Bangkok by compensating the passenger, though without admitting liability. Unlike the US claim, this claim was brought by the passenger herself in the form of a private lawsuit. In a sense, of course, this is a good thing, since no one should be denied carriage on account of nationality. On the other hand, if (as I suspect) the route involved transit through Kuwait, it’s difficult to see why the airline was willing to settle the case, since it won’t be able to sell a ticket on this route to the next Israeli passenger who asks. The best solution is for Kuwait to repeal its law, but barring that, will the airline cancel routes from the UK that require a stopover in Kuwait?