The Transportation Department found in September that the airline’s policy discriminated against Israeli citizens and ordered the practice to stop. Instead, the airline announced in December that it would drop the flights.
The decision does not apply to the airline’s three weekly non-stop flights between Kennedy International Airport in New York and Kuwait City. Those flights are not affected because Israelis are not allowed to visit Kuwait and are not granted visas.
Passengers in transit through another country are another matter, the Transportation Department said. Kuwait Airways’ refusal to carry Israeli citizens between New York City and London amounted to “unreasonable discrimination” because Israeli passport holders had the legal right to travel between the United States and Britain, it said.
The department said it was also investigating two formal complaints against Qatar Airways and Saudi Arabian Airlines.
Kuwait Airways started flying to New York in 1980, on Saturdays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, with flights stopping in London before continuing to Kuwait City, a reservation agent from Kuwait Airways said.
ISRAELI CITIZEN NOT WELCOME
Lawyers for Kuwait Airways said in a petition filed in November that the airline’s policy was based on Kuwaiti law, which prohibits domestic companies from conducting business with Israeli citizens. The lawyers said the airline did not discriminate against passengers holding a valid passport from a nation recognised by Kuwait and did not discriminate based on race or religion.
The lawyers said United States courts had long accepted distinctions based on citizenship and that the US upheld similar restrictions on citizens of countries it did not recognise, like North Korea.
But those arguments were not accepted by the Transportation Department, and the matter attracted the attention of Transportation secretary Anthony Foxx, who said if the airline did not change course, the administration was “prepared to use all tools at its disposal to protect the civil rights of passengers”.