Update, 5/11 at 3pm ET: Lufthansa’s CEO has apologized to the Rabbi of Berlin and suspended employees involved in the incident. The company has not yet corrected their public apology.
Update, 5/11 at 12pm ET: This story has been picked up by the New York Times, the Washington Post, CBS News, CNN, 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.
The ADL has also chimed in about this “apology,”
This non-apology fails to admit fault or identify the banned passengers as Jews. It also refers to them as a group, even though many were strangers. They had one commonality—being visibly Jewish. https://t.co/UBOkwY6iYG
— ADL (@ADL) May 10, 2022
On Sunday, after several days of interviews with passengers on Lufthansa flight 401, I wrote about the shocking story (read that first for background information) of Lufthansa collectively punishing over 130 Jews by barring them from catching their connecting flight on Lufthansa flight 1334, and barring them from flying on any Lufthansa flight for 24 hours.
I’m not an investigative journalist, but I heard rumors of what happened and couldn’t find any actual journalists pursuing and writing about the story. Since I cover travel deals and news and was shocked by the story, I decided to take it on.
Eventually that led me to uncovering the chilling video of a Lufthansa supervisor blaming problems on the Jews and explaining why collective punishment, or Sippenhaft against the Jews was justified. I was horrified that this could have possibly taken place in 2022.
The executive summary here is that Jewish passengers, some of whom were part of a group, but dozens who were not, were refused travel, despite not having any mask compliance issues, solely because they were visibly Jewish. As a Lufthansa supervisor put it, they were “punished for the crimes of a couple.”
After the story started getting picked up in the mainstream media, Lufthansa issued the following “apology” and statement, which in my opinion, makes things even worse for them.
Lufthansa regrets the circumstances surrounding the decision to exclude passengers from flight LH 1334 on May 4. Lufthansa sincerely apologizes. Please find our statement below: pic.twitter.com/yGXoD62QY1
— Lufthansa (@lufthansa) May 10, 2022
After 6 sleepless days investigating and following up on this story, here is what the media and more importantly Lufthansa got wrong.
1. Lufthansa notes that they regret the circumstances, not their actions and poor decisions. A true apology owns up to the actions and misdeeds.
2. As mentioned earlier today, the most egregious part of the apology is that Lufthansa refers to denying “the large group” when that was not the issue. If they only denied a group of passengers on a large group ticket traveling together, this story would not be nearly as egregious. The biggest problem is that there were dozens of Jews on the flight who purchased their own tickets, with cash or miles, and were also denied boarding. On the other hand the flight also had non-compliant non-Jews, but all non-Jews were allowed to catch their connecting flights, including to Budapest. The only 2 Jews allowed onboard the flight to Budapest were wearing a baseball cap and polo shirt respectively, so they were not as visibly Jewish as some of the other passengers. Lufthansa has not apologized for racially profiling over 130 Jews on the flight.
3. Had Lufthansa filed incident reports against individuals who were non-compliant and banned them from Lufthansa, that would have been just fine. Lufthansa’s original statement to DansDeals and other media said that “travelers refused to wear the legally mandated mask (medical mask) on board.” It failed to say it was only a few of the travelers that had compliance issues. Lufthansa has not apologized for putting their false statement out to the media about only banning non-compliant travelers.
4. Lufthansa’s original statement to DansDeals and other media said that they “rebooked the guests on the next available flight to their final destination.” This was blatantly untrue based on my interviews with over a dozen passengers on the flight. In fact, Lufthansa issued a 24 hour ban on all visibly Jewish customers that were on the flight, regardless of whether they were part of the group or not. This ban did not apply to non-Jews that were on the flight. Lufthansa’s new statement still doesn’t acknowledge this 24 hour ban, which was reported by numerous passengers. Lufthansa has also not apologized for putting their false statement out to the media about putting passengers on the next available flight.
5. Lufthansa ignores that their own airport supervisor later confirmed in a chilling video that they issued collective punishment and that all Jews on the flight had to “pay for a couple” because “Jewish people who were the mess, who made the problems.” The video is so bad that both YouTube and Instagram took it down for being hate speech, but reinstated it under pressure as the context is exposing hate speech, not promulgating hate speech. Lufthansa has not apologized for their employee’s hate speech.
6. In that same video, the Lufthansa agent confirms that upper management made these decisions, but Lufthansa has done nothing to address this.
7. Usher Schik was a Hasidic passenger who used United miles to book his own travel in business class on Lufthansa 401 and Lufthansa 1334. He was paged to board the flight and then denied boarding when he presented himself at the gate. He told me that the Lufthansa gate agent later told him that the captain of the flight to Budapest refused to fly any visible Jews on his flight. The gate agent tried arguing this, but the captain makes the final decision.
While it’s true that a captain gets to make that final call, he also has to answer for his open discrimination. The vast majority of the passengers from JFK to Budapest were mask compliant and banning all Jews from his flight appears to be clearly anti-Semitic. Had Lufthansa identified non-compliant individuals that would have been fine, but banning everyone based on race or religion is an egregious action. Lufthansa then made things even worse by banning the Jews on Lufthansa flight 401 from all Lufthansa flights for 24 hours. Lufthansa has not apologized for the captain’s decision or the subsequent decision to ban the passengers for 24 hours.
8. Lufthansa paged over 2 dozen police officers, some of whom were holding submachine guns, to rope off over 130 Jews. There were children of holocaust survivors on this flight and frankly, it’s not shocking that they had PTSD and that one person called the officer a Nazi. The officer reacted menacingly while trying to identify the person and intimidate the gathered Jews. I reached out to the Bundespolizei (Germany Federal Police Department) for a statement several days ago, but did not get one. Both Lufthansa and the Bundespolizei owe an apology for this terrifying scene at the gate.
9. Perhaps even worse, these actions all happened in the heat of the moment. However Lufthansa had a week to carefully craft this statement and apology and they are still pretending that the Jews on this flight were part of “the large group” when dozens of Jews on the flight were not part of any group and purchased their own individual tickets. The only common denominator of “the large group” is that they were all Jewish. In my opinion, lumping them all together as part of “the large group” is itself a highly anti-Semitic statement that somehow made it into their official statement! That is shocking and chilling.
The media is getting a lot of this story wrong by quoting Lufthansa about this being a large group, when it was not. I’ve also seen some media that passengers weren’t wearing masks in the videos and pictures, but they don’t state that Frankfurt airport hasn’t required masks in over a month!
The media needs to do a better job conveying these facts and Lufthansa needs to:
- Immediately come out with a real apology
- Report what actions are being taken against the employees that made these decisions.
- Outline what steps they are taking to rectify the situation for the passengers.
- Explain what steps they are taking going forward so that this kind of anti-Semitism never again happens.
This is the worst case of anti-Semitism that I’ve ever seen from an airline in my lifetime. I hope that Lufthansa can make things right.
My inbox remains open for any media inquiries or questions, firstname.lastname@example.org