Lufthansa’s executive offices are feeling the heat after the DansDeals original investigation of anti-Semitism at the airline.
Since it was posted on Sunday, that story has gone viral across the globe, featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, CBS News, JTA, Forward, The Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Haaretz, and all major publications in Germany such as the Frankffurter Allgemeine, Die Welt, BILD, and more.
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr is now in damage control mode and had a 30 minute video chat with Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal, Rabbi of Berlin’s Jewish community.
The Rabbi sent me a short clip of that conversation:
I reached out to Lufthansa for comment on the CEO’s chat with the Rabbi, but did not receive a response as of the time of this article’s posting.
I called Rabbi Teichtal to learn more about their chat.
Lufthansa’s head office reached out to him to setup the video chat. I asked the Rabbi why he thought the airline called him, instead of a Rabbi in Frankfurt, home of the incident and the airline’s base. He wasn’t positive, but notes that Berlin is the capital city and that he has worked with the federal government and companies in the past when similar cases about anti-Semitism have surfaced.
Rabbi Teichtal said that the CEO’s apologies sounded genuine and personal, a far cry from the generic “apology” that was published by the airline yesterday which ignored anti-Semitism and merely “regretted the circumstances.” That non-apology also referred to the passengers on the flight as a group, when in fact there were many passengers who booked their own travel and were also denied boarding to Budapest.
Mr. Spohr said that anti-Semitism has no place in his airline of over 100,000 employees. He said that point-blank this incident should never have happened and that employees involved have been suspended, pending the airline’s investigation into what happened. The CEO did not specify exactly which employees have been suspended.
More specifically, Mr. Spohr said that the airline’s refusal to transport the Jews on the flight was not acceptable and the words used by the Lufthansa employee about punishing all Jews on the flight for the sins of the few were not company policy or acceptable behavior. The CEO stressed that Lufthansa stands for connecting people and cultures and that this incident was the antithesis of that.
Mr. Spohr asked to meet Rabbi Teichtal in person next week to discuss further actions and how Lufthansa can learn from this and grow moving forward. Rabbi Teichtal recommended that the airline provide sensitivity training to all of their employees so that such an incident does not repeat itself.
Rabbi Teichtal also asked me for suggestions to pass along, and I mentioned the list of 9 things wrong with their apology and bullet points of what they need to do going forward.
Perhaps most importantly for right now, the airline needs to make a sincere public apology to the Jewish community worldwide for what happened in Frankfurt last Wednesday.
Clearly, executives at Lufthansa are feeling the pressure and are now in full damage control mode. Will heads roll because of their delayed reaction to this fiasco? Is it too late for them to win back customers who won’t stand for anti-Semitism, or can the airline still salvage its reputation?
Over the past few days I’ve received several emails containing more allegations of anti-Semitism at Lufthansa. I don’t have the resources to investigate them (journalists can contact me if they do), but they don’t paint a very pretty picture of how Jews are treated by Germany’s national carrier.
Do you think that we will see any meaningful change from this story or will things go back to how they were before, once this news cycle ends?