The U.S. Department of Transportation said it could seek sanctions against Kuwait Airways if the airline doesn’t end its practice of discriminating against Israeli-American passengers who fly to and from the United States. Anthony Foxx, the department secretary, planned to issue a “clear” warning of pending actions against the Kuwaiti airline behind allegations that Israeli-Americans have been denied air travel.
In a statement, Foxx said the U.S. “will not tolerate discrimination by airlines against passengers,” the Jerusalem Post reported Sunday. The official’s remarks come nearly a month after DOT concluded an investigation into an incident at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in which Kuwait Airways would not sell a London ticket to a passenger because she had an Israeli passport.
"We will take decisive action to enforce that point," Foxx said in the statement. "We are committed to ensuring that Israeli citizens traveling from the U.S. to the U.K. be given the same flight options and freedoms as other passengers. Protecting the civil rights of airline passengers is a department priority."
DOT would not elaborate on the type of action it could take against Kuwait Airlines, but the airline’s failure to address the discrimination might get it banned from operating in the U.S., according to the Jerusalem Post. Refusing to sell tickets to Israeli passengers is a violation of U.S. laws against boycott and divestment of Israel and its citizens, among other anti-discrimination laws, the transportation agency stated in an Oct. 22 letter to the airline.
Kuwait, a country of more than 3 million people on the Persian Gulf, is party to an Arab League boycott of Israel and Israeli business. The boycott effectively prevents the airline from issuing tickets to Israeli passengers, even if they are not flying to the country.
Iris Eliazarov, an Israeli living in Queens, New York, sued Kuwait Airways in February after the airline barred her from boarding a flight to London, according to the New York Daily News. U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York got involved in the case and called for the DOT investigation.
Last month, Kuwait Airways pushed back on the DOT investigation, questioning whether officials had simply suggested that their policy change, rather than demand that it end the practice. U.S. officials said they could proceed with action against the airline by mid-November.