Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) to 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 pointed to a recent case of an Israeli citizen who was not permitted to book a Kuwaiti Airlines flight from New York City to London because the airline does not recognize Israel. Schumer said that, in the case of Kuwaiti Airlines, the DOT should issue a fine for discriminating against the Israeli individual.
“The bottom line is that American law prohibits discrimination by air carriers on the basis of national origin. Kuwait Airlines violates that law when they refuse to transport an Israeli citizen from New York to London, a place that has no strictures against who may enter,” said Schumer. “Citizens of every nation, including Israel, should have the same airline options as anyone else when traveling from the United States to a nation that welcomes them, and any air carrier that refuses to fly an individual based on nationality is in violation of American law and should be fined, plain and simple.”
In November, 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.
“If you choose to discriminate and bar people from entering your nation, that is noxious, but largely beyond the reach of American law. But when you run your business in America, and profit from being here, your company must play by American rules, which prohibit discrimination by air carriers on the basis of national origin,” said Schumer.
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.”
Schumer today called on the DOT to enforce their policy against discrimination. Schumer explained that DOT must require any airline to take any person from America on any flight where they have a legal means to enter that country. If an airline refuses, that is discrimination, and should be fined and enjoined under our laws.
A copy of Schumer’s 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.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator