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Kuwait Airways not flying solo with no-Israelis policy

Saudi Arabian Airlines on Sunday said Qatari authorities had refused to grant a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight, scheduled to transport Qatari hajj pilgrims, permission to land at Hamad International Airport
REMY GABALDA (AFP)
Saudi Arabia's purported covert ties with Israel do not extend to the skies

Kuwait Airways became the target of anger on derision on Friday after a German court upheld their policy of forbidding Israeli passport holders from flying with them, however they are by no means the only airline in the Middle East to do so.

The Kuwaiti policy was condemned by Germany’s deputy foreign minister, and a justice ministry official even invoked the Holocaust, saying he could not “remain silent when activists in Germany call for a boycott of Israel, or, as in this case, when an airline refuses to carry Israeli citizens.”

Yet despite Israeli officials repeatedly hinting at Saudi Arabia's increasing fondness for the Jewish state --- a Saudi-owned newspaper last week even ran an interview with Israel's military chief -- the flag carrier of that country has freely admitted to barring Israelis from traveling on their jets.

Even if the time actually spent in the oil-rich kingdom is just a few hours in the airport lounge, the airline is a no-go for Israelis.

“[Diplomatic relations] also apply to transit passengers,” the airline’s then-chief, Khalid Al-Melhem, was quoted as saying in 2013, “in case the plane is delayed, the passenger will have to enter the country; and at that point, it would be very difficult to let him into [Saudi Arabia] if there are no diplomatic relations.”

An attempted dummy booking by i24NEWS for a December flight between Rome and Mumbai, with a stopover in Saudi Arabia reveals the policy is apparently still in place, with no option for "Israel" in the drop-down menu for adding passport details or even when entering a phone number.

AFP

In 2013 an aide of now-New York mayor Bill de Blasio attempted to book a flight from New York to Mumbai via Saudi Arabia, psrretending to be an Israeli passport holder, but was told by a sales representative that “since you have Israeli nationality, you will not be allowed to go on Saudi Airlines.”

While Saudia may not be the first choice of Israelis searching for flight options, they are a member of the Skyteam alliance of airlines, which includes heavyweights such as Delta, Air France and KLM, and as such would be an attractive option for flyers wishing to accumulate air miles.

In the last two decades the Persian Gulf has emerged has one of the world’s premier air transport hubs.

Anecdotally, there are some reports of Israeli passport holders travelling on three of the major Gulf carriers: the United Arab Emirates’ Etihad Airways and Emirates, and Qatar Airways.

The website of Lebanon’s main carrier, Middle East Airlines, is blocked in Israel.

German authorities said in October they were launching an investigation into the Kuwait Airways policy after an Israeli was told upon adding his passport details to a flight booking from Germany to Thailand that the airline could not take him, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.

He was offered a flight on a different airline, but instead filed a lawsuit.

The court reportedly ruled that Germany's anti-discrimination laws did not extend to discrimination based on nationality.

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