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Lufthansa apologizes after Jewish passengers accuse airline of discrimination

Lufthansa initially said a group of travelers had been kept from boarding a connecting flight in Frankfurt, Germany, on May 4 because they had violated the airline's mask policy on the first leg of the trip from New York. File Photo by Jan Brandes/Lufthansa/EPA-EFE
Lufthansa initially said a group of travelers had been kept from boarding a connecting flight in Frankfurt, Germany, on May 4 because they had violated the airline's mask policy on the first leg of the trip from New York. File Photo by Jan Brandes/Lufthansa/EPA-EFE

May 11 (UPI) -- Lufthansa airline has apologized after more than 100 Jewish passengers were blocked last week from boarding a connecting flight in Germany.

The German airline initially said the travelers had been kept from boarding the connecting flight in Frankfurt on May 4 because they had violated the airline's mask policy on the first leg from New York.

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"While Lufthansa is still reviewing the facts and circumstances of the day, we regret that the large group was denied boarding rather than limiting it to the non-compliant guests," the airline said Tuesday.

Some passengers who were barred from the connecting flight to Budapest said they had worn their masks, as required, on the flight from New York. While many U.S. airlines have dropped their mask requirements, Lufthansa still requires passenger and crew to mask up.

"I was wearing a mask the whole time," passenger Yitzy Halpern said in a video posted by the DansDeals travel blog. "Why am I lumped in with them?"

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"Everybody has to pay for a couple" who didn't comply, an unidentified Lufthansa representative says in the video. "It was Jewish people who were the mess, who made the problems."

Many of those excluded from the flight wore black hats used by ultra-Orthodox Jews or had Jewish-sounding names.

Video taken at the airport shows Lufthansa workers telling some passengers they would have to catch a later flight.

"Due to an operational reason coming from the flight from New York, all passengers here, we have to cancel you on this flight," the agent says.

Many of the passengers were flying to Hungary for a pilgrimage to honor a rabbi who died 97 years ago.

"We go to the grave, we light candles and say prayers," said Issac Kraus, who is a Hasidic Jew. "It is a very holy and emotional thing for us."

Passenger David Landau said the pilot on the first leg of Flight 401 announced the flight attendants were frustrated with passengers who refused to wear masks and blocked the galleys to pray. Landau said the pilot warned those passengers would have problems with their connecting flight.

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Lufthansa said it has "zero tolerance for racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination of any type."

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