The U.S. government’s Department of Transportation accused Kuwait Airways of unlawfully discriminating against an Israeli passenger.
The accusation last month was over the Kuwaiti airline’s refusal in 2013 to sell a ticket to Eldad Gatt, an Israeli citizen, who wanted to travel on an Israeli passport from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport to London Heathrow Airport, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.
Blane Workie, the department’s assistant general counsel for enforcement, sent a letter to the airline last month, informing management of U.S. regulations stating that “an air carrier or foreign air carrier may not subject a person, place, port, or type of traffic in foreign air transportation to unreasonable discrimination.”
Gatt’s complaint to the department was based on his inability to order tickets online on the website of Kuwait Airways as the airline’s online booking system prevented him from selecting Israel as his passport-issuing country.
The department investigated and initially rejected Gatt’s discrimination complaint, according to a statement and letter provided by transportation officials. But when Gatt appealed the department’s decision, the case was reopened and the department ultimately concluded that the airline had violated federal laws.
“By refusing to transport Israeli citizens to and from the U.S. and a third country that accepts Israeli citizens, in this case the United Kingdom, the airline is in violation of the law,” the letter said.
The Associated Press quoted Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx as saying that the case is a warning that “any airline that wishes to operate in the U.S. should know that we will not tolerate discrimination of any kind in our skies.”
The airline explained that it’s against the law in Kuwait to do business with any Israeli citizen or company. But the department rejected this explanation, saying it cannot justify the violation of U.S. laws.
The department has given the airline, which may face penalties for the violation, 15 days to respond.