Lufthansa Offers So-Called Apology For Incident Banning Jews

Last week Lufthansa bans Jews off of a New York JFK – Frankfurt flight from continued travel for a 24 hour period, after some passengers on board didn’t comply with mask rules and other crewmember instructions.

Non-Jews violating mask rules weren’t prevented from taking their connections. And the ban included passengers who could be identified as likely Jewish, even if they hadn’t broken any rules.

The German flag carrier scapegoated Jewish passengers and practiced collective guilt. Here’s a Lufthansa representative explaining that it’s Jews that caused problems, so the airline banned Jews from travel.

Passenger: The non-Jewish people on the flight went. Why are only the Jewish people paying for other people’s crimes?

Lufthansa: Because it’s Jews coming from JFK.

…Passenger: I’m like shocked beyond, never in my adult life. I’ve never heard this.

Lufthansa: If you want to do it like this, Jewish people who were the mess, who made the problems.

The airline’s first statement was to blame the victim, saying they had simply kept non-compliant passengers off the next flight. That turned out not to be true, and there was too much video of the incident which turned out to have legs in the media, so they’re now offering something of an apology.

Lufthansa “regrets the circumstances surrounding the decision to exclude the affected passengers from the flight” but nowhere in their statement do they say the word “Jews.” Instead they simply refer to “a large group” though they at least now acknowledge that this ‘group’ that shall not be named was banned whether or not any individual had acted improperly.

They apologize for “the offense caused and personal impact” while stating their ‘core values’ of ‘diversity and equal opportunity.’ They’re unwilling to simply say anti-semitism is unacceptable at Lufthansa. They felt the need to couch it in terms of their opposition to racism and to discrimination “of any type” though no other type was at issue here.

The airline wants to “better understand” the “concerns” of affected passengers and “improve [its] customer service.” But this misses the point entirely, as does discussion of whether compensation will be forthcoming to the passengers improperly denied boarding on Lufthansa flights (certainly their additional out of pocket expenses for lodging or new flights should be reimbursed). That’s not where this should end.

While neither excuses Lufthansa’s behavior, One Mile at a Time was “pleasantly surprised” by Lufthansa’s apology and Live and Let’s Fly calls the statement “a real apology.” I don’t think these takes are correct.

Lufthansa was effectively nationalized during the pandemic. The German government is its largest shareholder. Any statement should forcefully state that the company and its key shareholder will be looking at why was a decision made to identify Jews (and only Jews) for collective punishment? And why did Lufthansa’s company culture allow it, and even initially defend it? There should be several senior-level resignations taking responsibility for the chain of events. The company’s CEO should be accountable.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Orthodox Jews can be very demanding and difficult to deal with. There are numerous examples of unacceptable behavior on their part so I refuse to give them a pass. Lufthansa has a problem but some of the Jews did cause a problem (and it wasn’t only related to masks)

  2. I cannot agree with you more. That’s the flimsiest apology possible. Whenever a company says they are trying to “better understand,” that’s code for “We totally messed up but our lawyers won’t let us say so.” Compensation should be substantial and heads should roll.

  3. AC totally misses the point. LH denied boarding not only to the disruptive passengers but to any one on the flight it deemed Jewish. Inexcusable.

  4. @AC
    So white people are often very demanding and difficult to deal with. Why didn’t they just ban all white people?
    Or, do you think because you said “orthodox Jews” it makes you any less racist than if you said, say “Nigerians”?

  5. I would have expected a more thorough investigation by LH. And with a zero tolerance policy, those responsible (depending on the outcome of the investigation) should be held accountable. With that said, it’s on LH to show that an ethnic group wasn’t uniquely discriminated.

    @James, stupid argument. Nigerians is a nationality.

  6. This is an airline that should lose a lot of business. How long before they target your race/religion?
    I could not believe the video I saw of their staff denouncing every Jewish person on that flight. Horrific!

  7. The employees responsible for this act of anti Semitism and bigotry should be fired – and that includes the pilot of the flight from Germany to Hungary. Lufthansa should be held monetarily liable for their monstrous actions. I hope there are many lawsuits against Lufthansa.

  8. Why is Lufthansa apologizing for this?

    Germany supports Azov-Ukraine. So does Israel.

    The hysteria over so-called-antisemitism is meaningless when there is a lack of consistency.

  9. I don’t want to hear employers of racists apologize. Root out the cancerous bigots & do right by the victims. Otherwise, LH supports what happened. Talk is cheap until we see real action.

  10. I’m appreciative of you calling out these other bloggers. “Lucky” had made a lot of money with his CPA deals and he clearly values that more than speaking truth. What if the agent said Gay people with little dogs are the problem? Would the apology be well said then?

  11. If the airline gave Gary a bagel with butter along with the shallow apology, Gary would be as happy as a pig in mud. Pun intended.

  12. Thank you Gary. Unbelievable to see how quickly people jump to Lufthansa’s defense here when they issue a very insulting non-apology.

    You and Dan should keep on holding Lufthansa accountable.

    Thank you again.

  13. The guy had a very aggressive tone and was emboldened by his holier than though attitude. He kept interrupting the LH lady and wouldn’t allow her to even finish a sentence. Even the “Jews from NYC” quote has no context because the LH was trying to explain something but kept getting interrupted. Shame on the author for trying to link LH, a German airline, with anti-semitism. Absurd. There is more anti-Semitism today in the US, France, or Russia than in Germany. And shame on for prioritizing sensationalism vs. checking the facts.

  14. Lufthansa is a great airline with great redemption opportunities. I suspect that it was the pilot of the BUD flight that needs to be fired or lectured.

  15. “The airline wants to “better understand” the “concerns” of affected passengers”

    yeah gee, i wonder what the affected passengers would be concerned about. There’s just no way to know without talking to them. Maybe it was the lighting in FRA that concerned them? Or was it that the line at customs was moving slowly?

    Who knows….

  16. Gary, you are 100% correct. As usual your commentary is spot on.

    @AC Racist much? Orthodox Jews, like Muslims, Blacks, Latinos, and Germans, are not a monolith. There are certainly both good and bad actors of all faiths and ethnicities but to deny a service to all members of a particular faith because of a few alleged bad actors is totally indefensible and inexcusable behavior.

    Quit trying to defend the indefensible, and take a minute to think about what actually happened and how that might have made innocent Jewish passengers on that flight feel.

  17. Gary and Dan. You both seem like obstructionists, begging for another click, on your insipid, incendiary articles. Time for you both to be off-boarded.
    Long live the classy flyers, any color or creed.

  18. I’ll tell you what actually happened. People dress and act similarly, so the smart employees prevented a potential problem.
    Ever walk by the gates for flights taking off for israel, from EWR? You would not want to get on those planes.

  19. I’ll tell you what actually happened. People dress and act similarly, so the smart employees prevented a potential problem.
    Ever walk by the gates for flights taking off for israel, from EWR? You would not want to get on those planes.

  20. I’m non-political and a Christian. Now I see what anti-semitism is: targeting and grouping people based on their race. I will never fly Lufthansa again. How can anyone work for this airline and defend this? I’d be embarrassed to be associated with Lufthansa.

  21. It’s like demolishing homes of All the Palestinian relatives when only one teen commits the crime? Cry “collective punishment” only when it suits you.
    By the way Israel just Banned 11000 Palestinians from going to work that had one guy that attacked a settler that was trying to steal his .
    Go figure!

  22. AC had a good point. All those on here who are flatly jumping to attack him are just following the politically correct thing to say. As I re-read his post I saw nothing very inflammatory. Both sides did wrong things. He said “some” of the Jews not “all” of the Jews. The flight agent who said those things should be fired immediately no question. The innocent passengers who got bumped should get compensation and amends absolutely. Lufthansa should take a stronger apologetic stance of course. But this discussion is terribly one-sided. Almost everyone is blindly giving those orthodox Jews who committed disruptive, rude, inconsiderate and dangerous behavior a total pass. Every story has two sides. Lufthansa is in awfully hot water here. But the orthodox Jews who created disruption were far from blameless and anyone who doesn’t consider that as a significant contributing factor to this incident is naive and a sheeple.

  23. “It’s an open question how much making life inside of Russia difficult matters for the outcome of the invasion.” it seems you came to a conclusion regarding the benefits of collective punishments and decided it’s not ok?

  24. “Collective punishment” seems to be in fashion at the moment.
    Just look at the ban of Russian and Belarusian tennis players at Wimbledon. Only because they are identified by a passport…

  25. @Darth Apu – I really hope Putin paid you for spreading his propaganda.

    @Nut n yahoo – the State of Israel is hardly equivalent to all Jewish people. This is like saying that all Muslims are responsible for what the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia does.

    @Miamiflyer – this is more than a little bit different. Competitors in international sporting events are strongly associated with their home country even in individual sports like tennis where there is no official “national team.” Those who travel on Russian passports will face restrictions as a result of international actions intended to oppose the Russian government’s war of aggression in Ukraine. True “collective punishment” would be to exclude an American of Russian ancestry from Wimbledon because s/he looked Russian and had a Russian-sounding name.

  26. @Bobby: I’m non-political and a Christian. Now I see what anti-semitism is: targeting and grouping people based on their race. I will never fly Lufthansa again. How can anyone work for this airline and defend this? I’d be embarrassed to be associated with Lufthansa.

    I will give you the benefit of the doubt on your comment. Guess you just are ignorant. Jews are a religious entity. To my knowledge, only one person ever called Jews a race. Yup, you got it: Adolph Hitler.

  27. Dr. And Dr. Ivey you are both asses. I pray that you are PhD’s and not MD’s.

  28. @CLT Flyer: Did you bother reading the lawsuit? There are some serious allegations out there. If true, KLM has a major issue on their hands and it is not the group.

  29. Let’s switch the non-mask-wearer’s identifying characteristic from his religion to his eye color. The offender has blue eyes, so all blue-eyed passengers must get off the plane.

    That is what discrimination and bigotry are about: anyone unlike my concept of who is permitted to be considered privileged.

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