Passengers told CNN they flew from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport to Frankfurt to join Lufthansa, scheduled for March 4, to join a flight to Budapest for a religious pilgrimage.
Yitzy Halpern of New York said he was trying to board the flight when he and several other passengers, identified as Jews, who were not part of his group, were told they were on board. Will not be allowed
Halpern said that once the gates were closed, the airline announced that its tickets for Budapest had been canceled due to an incident that occurred during a flight from JFK, which the airline told CNN. This includes people who do not follow the rules of the mask or the instructions of other staff members.
Passengers told CNN that although they were not traveling as a “group,” Lufthansa treated them that way.
During the announcement, which was caught on video, an employee said, “You know why,” and passengers were heard saying, “No, we don’t.”
Lufthansa said she was contacting passengers and apologized “not only for the inconvenience, but also for the offense and personal consequences.” A spokesman told CNN the airline was conducting an internal review.
Passengers accuse the airline of anti-Semitism
In a video of the incident, posted on the Deniz Dales website, the passengers accused the airline and German police, who were at the departure gate, of anti-Semitism.
On one occasion, in a heated exchange, a passenger who could not be seen or identified by the camera could be heard calling a police officer a “Nazi.” Another passenger tells a police officer guarding the gate: “Your grandparents will be proud.”
Halpern was heard saying: “I’m not with the group. I think the pilot made the decision and we don’t question the pilot’s decision but apparently, we are banned from other Lufthansa flights … Is it Lufthansa’s decision that all the Jews who were on this flight cannot go on another flight today?
Halpern asked to speak to top management and continued to question the decision.
“I’ve been wearing a mask all the time. Why am I stuck with them?” He asks the employee.
The employee says a few seconds later, “Everyone has to pay for the couple.”
When Halpern asks what “everyone” means, the employee replies, “Because it’s a Jew from JFK.”
Halpern and the employee, who speaks broken English, move back and forth, and then the employee is heard saying, “The Jewish people were the ones who created the problems.”
“So the Jews on the plane created problems so that all Jews would be banned from Lufthansa for one day?” Halpern asks.
“Just for this flight,” the employee replies.
Three passengers who contacted CNN reported not seeing anything unusual on the flight from JFK and said that the passengers they saw followed the airline staff’s instructions to adjust their masks. ۔
Yitzie Schmidt, who was traveling with Halpern, told CNN he did not see any wrongdoing on the part of the passengers. Schmidt said that sometimes people ate and forgot to put their masks back, or a passenger was asked to adjust his mask, but everyone he saw obeyed the flight attendant.
“We were all stunned and trying to figure out how that could happen,” Schmidt said.
Lufthansa apologized, saying the decision was “non-compliant”
“The decision was based on various examples of non-compliance with the mask requirements of several guests and crew safety instructions on the previous flight LH401 from New York to Frankfurt,” airline spokesman Tal Muskel told CNN in a statement. “Lufthansa regrets the circumstances surrounding the decision to remove the affected passengers from the flight, for which Lufthansa sincerely apologizes.”
“What happened is not in line with Lufthansa’s policies or values. We have zero tolerance for racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination of any kind,” Muskel said. “While Lufthansa is still reviewing the facts and circumstances of the day, we regret that the large group was denied boarding instead of being confined to non-compliant guests.”
Muskel said he was not aware of any disciplinary action.
According to a German news report confirmed by Muscal, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr told employees that what happened was unacceptable.
“There is no place for anti-Semitism in Lufthansa,” Spohr said. “The procedure that took place last Wednesday should not have been like this and now it should be fully clarified.”
Earlier on Wednesday, he spoke in a video call with a Jewish leader in Berlin.
“We’ve been analyzing in detail for days how this could happen. What actually happened. Various sources. We’ve talked to our staff members so far. We’ve talked to the business on the ground. It’s clear. We apologize for the inconvenience. ” Sepehr said to the rabbi. “Nowhere does this conform to our principles of communication and conduct.”
‘It was a kind of unacceptable choice’
At least two Jewish men were allowed on board a flight to Budapest.
Max Wangerton told CNN that he and his business partner flew first class from JFK to Frankfurt without any problems and were allowed to board the next flight.
Her business partner was stopped during boarding but was finally allowed to board the plane after a discussion with airline staff.
“We don’t dress like ultra-orthodox, we look like ordinary citizens,” he told CNN. “The choice between Jews versus non-Jews or between Jews is terrible. It was the kind of unacceptable choice that was made. I was completely nervous.”
German politician Marilyn Schبرnberger said that if the accounts proved to be correct, there would be consequences.
“Excluding Jews from the flight because they were able to be identified as Jews is a scandal. I expect German companies to be especially aware of anti-Semitism,” he tweeted.
Uwe Becker, commissioner of the fight against anti-Semitism and Jewish life in the German state of Hesse, demanded an apology and clarification from Lufthansa.
“Here, an entire group of people was clearly blamed for something that obviously only affected individual travelers, just because of their identifiable beliefs. It’s discriminatory and no trivial matter.” It doesn’t matter, “he said.
CNN’s Carol Alvardo, Christopher Stern, Liam Riley, Nicky Brown and Alexandra Field contributed to this report.