Kuwait Air has announced it will halt passenger service from New York’s JFK airport to Heathrow in London by January 18, due to a requirement by the United States Department of Transportation that it cease discrimination against Israeli travelers.
“The US Department of Transportation will not tolerate unlawful discrimination, and has mandated that the airline immediately cease that practice and allow Israeli passengers to travel between the US and London,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said on Friday.
The Times of Israel reports that DOT notified Kuwait Air its policies violated American law in September, after reviewing a complaint filed by an Israeli named Eldad Gatt.
Gatt wanted to buy a ticket from JFK to Heathrow in 2013, but Kuwait Air refused, saying the laws of Kuwait prohibit its citizens from “entering into an agreement, personally or indirectly, with entities or persons residing in Israel, or with Israeli citizenship.”
According to USA Today, Kuwait Air’s lawyers argued the Department of Transportation was not authorized to enforce consumer-protection provisions against the airline, in violation of Kuwaiti law.
Gatt’s lawyer worried that the case could slog through years of litigation, if treated as an administrative enforcement action, asking for a U.S. District Court injunction against Kuwait Airways’ “reprehensible behavior” instead.
Although Kuwait Air gave up the fight against DOT on the New York-London route, the New York Times notes the airline’s three weekly non-stop flights between Kennedy International Airport and Kuwait City are unaffected, because “Israelis are not allowed to visit Kuwait and are not granted visas.”
The New York Times also mentions two formal complaints lodged with DOT against Qatar Airways and Saudi Arabian airlines. Saudi Arabia has a ban on visitors from Israel similar to the one in Kuwait.