Lufthansa to hire antisemitism manager after orthodox passengers barred from flight

The company will also adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism


German airline Lufthansa is set to create a senior management position to tackle antisemitism and discrimination after more than a hundred visibly Jewish passengers were barred from a flight in May.

The German flagcarrier has also confirmed that it is going to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which the government of Germany endorsed in 2017.

An independent investigation commissioned by the airline into the May incident found that there was no evidence of institutional antisemitism even after a Lufthansa staff member was filmed saying: “[it was] Jewish people who were the mess, who made the problems.”

On 4 May, more than a hundred people who were visibly Jewish were barred from a flight by airline staff and armed police after a small number of Jewish passengers on a previous flight from New York to Frankfurt refused to wear face masks.

The group were on their way to Budapest on an annual pilgrimage to commemorate a Chasidic rabbi, and it was claimed by passengers that Lufthansa employees at Frankfurt Airport took action to bar all passengers who appeared visibly Jewish from boarding the connecting flight.

A Lufthansa staff member was caught on video saying that “Jews coming from JFK” caused problems on board the flight, which is why visibly Jewish people were being barred from their connecting flight.

In a 22 July letter to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations obtained by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), Lufthansa’s CEO Jens Ritter said that the airline's internal task force investigating the incident acknowledged that some of its crew members had been “insensitive and unprofessional”, but the report concluded: “The thorough investigation did not reveal any sentiments of antisemitism, prejudice or premeditated behaviour by Lufthansa representatives.”

Ritter went on to blame “an unfortunate chain of inaccurate communication, misinterpretation and unintended misjudgements”, and noted that the “several Orthodox Jewish passengers” who were not following regulations around mask-wearing had “created a tenuous situation” and triggered “several announcements” from the captain.

As a result of the incident and the report, Ritter pledged to create a new senior management position “for the prevention of discrimination and antisemitism”, create a new staff training element around antisemitism, and adopt the IHRA definition.

Ritter wrote: “Lufthansa deeply regrets the denied boarding and the impact it had on our passengers.”

Lufthansa said in a statement following the incident in May that it "regrets the circumstances surrounding the decision to exclude the affected passengers from the flight", and apologised "not only for the inconvenience, but also for the offence caused and personal impact."

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