Lufthansa to Adopt IHRA Antisemitism Definition After May Incident in Which Group of Jews Were Denied Boarding

A Lufthansa A340 is seen during takeoff.

August 4, 2022

The German flag carrier Lufthansa is creating a senior management position “for the prevention of discrimination and antisemitism” and will adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism following a May incident in which large group of Orthodox Jewish passengers were barred in Frankfurt from boarding a connecting flight to Budapest after arriving from New York, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported.

An independent investigation commissioned by the airline, however, said there was no evidence of institutional antisemitism behind what occurred on May 4th, when a Lufthansa supervisor was recorded saying, “Everyone has to pay for a couple,” and, “It’s Jews coming from JFK. Jewish people who were the mess, who made the problems” — referring to alleged violations of flight regulations by a number of passengers.

In a July 22 letter to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Lufthansa CEO Jens Ritter said some of the airline’s crew members had been “insensitive and unprofessional” in dealing with the passengers. But, he noted, “The thorough investigation did not reveal any sentiments of antisemitism, prejudice or premeditated behavior by Lufthansa representatives.”

Ritter also blamed “an unfortunate chain of inaccurate communication, misinterpretation and unintended misjudgments” for the incident, and said that “several Orthodox Jewish passengers” who were not complying with regulations had “created a tenuous situation” and prompted “several announcements” from the flight’s captain.

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

IHRA praised Lufthansa’s adoption of its Working Definition of Antisemitism, tweeting, “This sends an important signal that antisemitism can infiltrate — and is unacceptable — in all spheres of life, including the travel industry.”

Shortly after the incident, the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) tweeted, “The alleged discriminatory treatment of a group of Jewish passengers by Lufthansa, Germany’s flag carrier, is deeply troubling. We call on @Lufthansa to explain the behavior of its employees, and take disciplinary action if they acted as reported.”