German airline Lufthansa has issued an apology for not letting a large number of Orthodox Jewish passengers onboard a connecting flight at Frankfurt airport after some individuals refused to wear masks.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the airline said it “regrets the circumstances surrounding the decision to exclude the affected passengers from the flight,” adding that it “sincerely apologises”.
The company also said it was “reviewing facts and circumstances” of the incident that occurred on 4 May, when some Jewish passengers boarded their flight and were denied entry.
The group of people – not connected to each other – boarded a flight from New York to Frankfurt, intending to take a connecting flight to Budapest to attend an annual memorial at a nearby village commemorating a rabbi.
A few people, however, allegedly refused to comply with the rules requiring them to wear face masks.
Lufthansa responded by allegedly cancelling the boarding passes of over 100 people – most of whom wore Jewish Orthodox clothing or had Jewish sounding names.
“We regret that the large group was denied boarding rather than limiting it to the non-compliant guests,” the airline said in the statement.
“We have zero tolerance for racism, antisemitism and discrimination of any type,” it added.
A video recorded at the airport showed a Lufthansa representative telling a passenger who was not allowed to board that they were banned because it was Jewish people boarding from New York who were “the problem”.
The passenger can be heard saying he was “shocked” that this happened in 2022 “in a western country”.
The incident led to widespread criticism of the airline and allegations of antisemitism from a member of the German parliament who called for an investigation.
“Excluding Jews from a flight because they were recognisable as Jewish is a scandal. I expect German companies in particular to be aware of antisemitism,” Marlene Schoenberger, a member of the German Greens party, wrote in a tweet in the German language.
German Law requires passengers to wear medical or FFP2 masks to travel and, while several reports said a few passengers did not comply with the rules, passengers told German media outlets almost everyone else was wearing masks.