A German appeals court on Tuesday ruled that it could not prevent Kuwait Airways from refusing service to Israeli passengers, even though it believed the policy amounted to discrimination.
The case was brought by an Israeli student living in Germany, Adar M., who in 2016 bought a ticket online to travel from Frankfurt to Bangkok with Kuwait Airways.
The state-owned airline canceled the ticket soon after, saying Kuwaiti law prohibits all commercial relations with Israelis and Israeli companies.
Kuwait Airways canceled his booking when he revealed he had an Israeli passport and offered to book him on another airline. Adar refused the offer and filed the lawsuit, seeking compensation for alleged discrimination. He also insisted the airline should have to accept him as a passenger.
The higher regional court in Frankfurt called the boycott “unacceptable,” but ruled that because the flight required a stopover in Kuwait City, which is under Kuwaiti jurisdiction, it was “factually impossible” for the airline to have fulfilled its contract.
It dismissed as “irrelevant,” however, the airline’s fear of legal repercussions at home, saying Kuwait’s boycott had no legal standing in Germany.
In a statement, the court acknowledged that the outcome was “unsatisfying” for the plaintiff but said it had no choice but to dismiss his demand to be able to book a new journey to Bangkok with Kuwait Airways.
A request for financial compensation was also denied.
The judges nevertheless slammed Kuwait’s Israel boycott as discriminatory and “incompatible with German values,” but said changing it was a matter for politicians.
The ruling was similar to the finding reached by a lower German court last year. The court ruled in favor of the airline, saying it was “not reasonable” to demand it violate the laws of its country, regardless of the reasonableness of those laws.
The non-profit Lawfare project, which is representing the Israeli passenger, said it was considering a further appeal.
“This is a tragic day for German law,” Lawfare’s executive director Brooke Goldstein said after Tuesday’s ruling. “Rather than be held accountable before the law, the court has rewarded Kuwait Airways for its anti-Semitism.”
Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, also criticized the policy. “It is 2018. No airline should be allowed to categorically reject Israelis,” he said.
In 2015, Kuwait Airways opted to scrap all its flights between New York’s JFK airport and London Heathrow after US authorities threatened legal action over its refusal to sell tickets to Israelis.