Delayed bags from Tel Aviv flight a sign of antisemitism, Lyon’s Jewish community says

Officials say two hour wait for Transavia passengers’ luggage was ‘not an isolated incident’ — but the airport said it was short-staffed


Jewish community officials in Lyon are preparing legal action over allegations that luggage handlers at the city’s airport are deliberately withholding bags arriving from Tel Aviv.

A two-hour delay after Transavia’s flight arrived at the airport last Sunday resulted in a fight between angry passengers and airport personnel.

Some passengers, frustrated by the lack of explanation, entered a restricted area in an effort to retrieve their luggage. Airport police had to intervene to break up the fighting.

“This is not an isolated incident. These delays have been happening regularly for several years,” Richard Benita, the head of Lyon’s Jewish radio, told the JC.

“The airport is using subcontractors for its security and baggage deliveries. We never have problems with easyJet’s baggage handlers, only with Transavia. It seems some of their workers have resentment towards Israel and they express it by delaying luggage deliveries.

“The personnel is about 90 per cent originally from North African countries. I’m not saying they’re antisemitic or that all baggage handlers are involved but this can’t continue.”

Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport, which is investigating the incident, said there was no discrimination against passengers flying in from Israel. A spokesperson told France 3 television that the average time for luggage delivery is 24 minutes, and the average for flights from Tel Aviv was 23 minutes.

But the airport admitted not enough baggage handlers had been scheduled to work on that busy Sunday evening.

“I don’t believe them if that’s their answer. There are just too many incidents,” said Mr Benita. “On Sunday, passengers arriving from Tel Aviv had waited for an hour when they saw passengers who had just arrived from Algeria getting their luggage.

“That’s why they got angry and one of them walked to a restricted area to find out what was going on.” Transavia’s baggage handlers denied targeting flights from Israel and say they are appalled by accusations of antisemitism.

“A baggage handler was unloading baggage from Algeria when he saw a dozen individuals bursting into the restricted area,” union official Atef Ben Hamuda told the Lyon Mag news outlet in the city.

“They had forced open a magnetic door. He told them they had no right to be there and asked them to go back into the airport but they refused and broke his finger. Another worker was also injured.”

The baggage handlers started a short strike after the incident, which led to additional delays.

They accused Tel Aviv passengers of overreacting, saying delays are commonplace since their company allegedly cut jobs.

“Passengers from Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria can handle delays like everyone, so why can’t they?” one baggage handler, who would not give his name, told Lyon Mag.

Meyer Habib, a Jewish MP in the French assembly who represents voters living abroad, said he has written to France’s transport minister on the issue.

“There are elements that seem to show that a part of the personnel at Lyon-Saint Exupéry airport may have orchestrated a boycott due to their hatred of the Jewish state, showing one of the faces of contemporary antisemitism,” he wrote.

Mr Habib that a recent report on public institutions and radicalisation had shown that there was an “over-representation of radicalised individuals working in France’s airports”, and called for disciplinary sanctions if the discrimination was proven to be true.

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