09.30.15

SCHUMER: FOLLOWING SENATOR’S CALL FOR INVESTIGATION, FEDERAL DEPT. OF TRANSPORTATION CONCLUDES KUWAIT AIRWAYS IS DISCRIMINATING AGAINST ISRAELI CITIZENS, EVEN WHEN FLYING TO COUNTRIES THEY CAN LEGALLY ENTER; SENATOR URGED FEDS TO INTERVENE AFTER AN ISRAELI CITIZEN HAD BEEN DENIED TICKETS TO BOARD A KUWAIT AIRWAYS FLIGHT FROM NYC TO LONDON

After An Israeli Citizen Was Not Permitted to Fly From NYC to London via Kuwait Airways, Schumer Urged DOT to Intervene; Senator Said Kuwait Airways Has Been Violating American Law & Discriminating Against Israeli Citizens

Schumer Announces Federal Department of Transportation Finds Discrimination By Kuwait Airways; DOT Says Kuwait Airways Must Comply With U.S. Laws, As It Operates a Route Out of the U.S.

Schumer: Those, Like Kuwait Airways, Who Choose to Run a Business in America Must Play by American Rules, Which Prohibit Discrimination By Air Carriers on Basis of National Origin


U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that, following his call for an investigation into the matter, the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) has found that Kuwait Airways has been discriminating against Israeli passengers. In 2013, Schumer wrote to the DOT after an Israeli citizen was not permitted to book a Kuwait Airways flight from New York City to London because the airline does not recognize Israel.  Schumer said that, in the case of Kuwait Airways, the DOT should issue a fine for discriminating against the Israeli individual. Specifically, Schumer said that the DOT should fine any airline that refuses to fly a person from America to a country that they have legal right to enter. Federal law prohibits discrimination by air carriers on the basis of national origin, however, this policy is not always enforced. Schumer said he is pleased with the outcome of this investigation, however, he is deeply disturbed by Kuwait Airways’ unlawful discrimination of passengers.

"American law prohibits discrimination by air carriers on the basis of national origin and yet, that’s exactly what Kuwait Airlines did when they refused to transport an Israeli citizen from New York to London,” said Schumer. "Now that the Department of Transportation has concluded that Kuwait Airways is discriminating and in violation of American law, the feds should make sure the airline is punished to the fullest extent possible. Those, like Kuwait Airways, who choose to run a business in America must play by American rules, which explicitly prohibits discrimination by air carriers on basis of national origin.”  

In November 2013, an Israeli citizen planned to fly from New York's JFK International Airport to London's Heathrow airport via Kuwait Airlines. When purchasing the tickets online, the individual attempted to select "Israel" as his passport issuing country, however, it did not exist. The only option available was for the "Palestinian Territory", which was inapplicable to the individual. Therefore, the individual could not book this ticket. Similarly, in 2013 it was reported that Saudi Arabian Airlines refused to fly those with Israeli passports onboard their airplanes, even when taking off from a U.S. airport.

According to the statute (49 USC 40127), "an air carrier or foreign air carrier may not subject a person in air transportation to discrimination on the basis of race, color national origin, religion, sex or ancestry."

A copy of Schumer's original letter is below:

Dear Secretary Foxx:

I am respectfully writing today to bring your attention to an important civil rights matter affecting international air travel originating out of the United States.   There are a number of airlines-including Kuwait Airways-that do not permit Israeli nationals living in the United States board flights to locations where these individuals have permission to travel.  For instance, Mr. Eldad Gatt, a citizen of the State of Israel, tried to fly on November 14, 2013 from New York's John F. Kennedy airport, to London's Heathrow airport on Kuwait Airways.  Kuwait Airways did not permit Mr. Gatt to book this flight because it does not accept passports issued by Israel as valid travel documents.

As you know, there is a very clear statute-49 USC § 40127-that prohibits discrimination by all air carriers on the basis of national origin.  Specifically it says "an air carrier or foreign air carrier may not subject a person in air transportation to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, or ancestry."

I believe the Department of Transportation must require any airline to take any person from America on any flight where they have a legal means (i.e. a visa or some other status) to enter that country.  If an airline refuses, that is discrimination, and should be fined and enjoined under our laws.  Discrimination should not be permitted by any air carrier who seeks to collect revenues from American passengers.

I urge you to take action to resolve this issue of discrimination and I look forward to discussing this matter with you at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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