A German appeals court has said a Kuwaiti law that prevented an Israeli air passenger from changing planes in the country is “unacceptable” and has no legal effect in Germany but ruled that the flag carrier Kuwait Airways is not obliged to rebook his flight.
The passenger, an Israeli citizen resident in Germany, appealed to the Higher Regional Court Frankfurt after the city’s regional court threw out his suit against the airline, which he argued should offer him a new flight or compensation after it cancelled his booking for a journey to Bangkok that included a stopover in Kuwait City.
Kuwait Airways, which connects eight European cities to destinations in North Africa, the Middle East and Asia via the Kuwaiti capital, cancelled the passenger’s original booking after learning of his Israeli nationality. Under a 1964 law, adopted as part of a coordinated policy among Arab League nations to boycott economic relations with Israel, Kuwait has made it illegal for a company based in the country to conclude a contract with an Israeli citizen.
While such a contract could lead to sanctions for the Kuwaiti company at home, the Higher Regional Court said the regulation had no traction in Germany, where it was “unacceptable because it is not in accordance with the German legal approach.” The 1964 law provided for “unjustified collective punishments” and contained nothing that lent itself to international adoption in the same way as a UN embargo would, the court said.
Moreover, the boycott went against the general principles of non-discrimination that are enshrined in European Union law. “The Kuwaiti Boycott Act aims at discriminating against people because of their race and ethnic origin,” an English language explainer of the judgment said. “This is confirmed by the ethnic composition of the Israeli people with a percentage of Jews of almost 75%.”
However, while Kuwait Airways was barred from relying on the boycott as a defence in the German proceedings, the court nevertheless accepted that the regulation created a legitimate obstacle to its ability to fulfil the contract of carriage. The carrier could uphold its part of the bargain by flying the passenger from Frankfurt to Kuwait City, but once there it could exercise no control over the administration of the airport transit zone, which “falls within the competence of the Kuwaiti sovereign rights” and is subject to the country’s immigration and trade regulations.
The court noted that the result was “very unsatisfying” for the passenger but said it was “a matter of foreign policy or international legislation to change this situation.”
The passenger’s claim for reimbursement of the ticket price, made under the German antidiscrimination statute the General Act on Equal Treatment, meanwhile, came to a simpler end: he didn’t file within the statutory two-month deadline.