German airline apologizes for excluding Jewish passengers

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BERLIN – German airline Lufthansa has apologized for refusing to board a flight after a member of a large group of Orthodox Jewish passengers refused to wear a mask.

In a statement late Tuesday, Lufthansa said it “regrets the situation surrounding the decision to exclude injured passengers from the flight, for which Lufthansa sincerely apologizes.”

The airline said it was reviewing what happened at the time of the May 4 incident, which involved passengers transiting Frankfurt on a flight from New York to Budapest.

The German daily Frankfurter’s Alzheimer’s Zeitung reported that some passengers refused to comply with mandatory rules for wearing their masks, prompting Lufthansa staff to block all passengers who were visibly identifiable as Jews on their connecting flight.

Local German media reported that the crew excluded passengers who were identified as Jews because they wore skull caps or had sidelocks.

“We are sorry that large groups were denied boarding instead of being confined to non-compliant guests,” the airline said.

“We have zero tolerance for racism, anti-Semitism and any kind of discrimination,” it added.

Hesse, the state’s anti-Semitic commissioner, where Frankfurt is located, has strongly condemned the incident.

Wei Baker said that apparently an entire group – just because of their recognized beliefs – was responsible for something that clearly only affected individual travelers.

“This is discriminatory and not a trivial matter, and moreover the top management of the company should also be held personally responsible for apologizing for this incident and taking a clear and unequivocal position,” Baker told the German news agency DPA.

Baker said he would be happy to talk to Lufthansa about this.

“Something like this should not be repeated,” he added.

Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal, a rabbi in Berlin and head of the local Chabad community, said German companies should be sensitive to possible anti-Semitism in light of the country’s Nazi past.

Teichtal welcomed Lufthansa’s chief executive, Kirsten Spohr, who called on him to apologize for the incident.

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