Kuwait Airways is in some hot water over its policy not to transport Israeli citizens. After the Kuwaiti flag carrier refused to transport to Eldad Gatt, an Israeli citizen, Glatt complained to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Now in a letter to Kuwait Airways, DOT has accused the airline of breaking U.S. discrimination laws and ordered it to abandon its policy of refusing to transport Israelis or those associated with the state of Israel.
U.S. law states that airlines “may not subject a person, place, port or type of traffic in foreign air transportation to unreasonable discrimination.” Kuwait Airways argues the key word is unreasonable and that if it followed U.S. law it would be forced to break Kuwaiti law. Further, the carrier contends via its lawyers that “it has not violated the above statute…All Kuwait Airways passengers are treated equally within the requirements of applicable laws.”
So what Kuwait Airways is saying that anyone can travel…as long as they are not linked to Israel. In other words, anyone can travel as long as they disavow a quinessential part of their identity. That legal argument will not fly.
It is fair to ask why the heck would an Israeli want to fly Kuwait Airways. Why even connect through a nation that is so hostile to you? The answer is the same reason I would fly Kuwait Airways — cheap fares. Kuwait Airways offer dirt-cheap fares on its Fifth Freedom service between London and New York and offers a host of cheap fares to other destinations as well. Onboard service may be laughably bad, but when the fare is half the price of competitors, it becomes bearable to many consumers.
The airline must now respond to DOT in the next two weeks with how it will abide by U.S. law. I think Kuwait Airways is making a losing legal argument and I find it odd that this company would turn away bonafide customers who are gladly willing to fly them. What do you think?