World Airways, a U.S.-based airline that recently launched service between New York and Tel Aviv, is facing allegations that it seeks to discriminate against Orthodox Jewish travelers.
According to the Israeli newspaper Yom Hashishi, the airline recently held a meeting with Israeli travel agencies to announce its new nonstop service, but refused to invite agents from orthodox communities in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem. At that meeting, company representative Yeshayahu Harsit reportedly told travel agents that “we are speaking of problematic passengers who make noise and travel with many suitcases.”
Yom Hashishi, an independent religious newspaper, alleged that Harsit was referring to Orthodox Jews and that the statement reflects a broader policy of discrimination against the Orthodox community.
The company vehemently denied allegations that it sought to exclude Orthodox travel agents from the meeting.
“Members of the travel board were invited to attend the inaugural presentation in Israel,” Henk Guitjens, senior vice president of marketing and sales for World Airways, said in a statement.
Representatives of the airline also said it would be absurd for of a profit- making company to pursue a discriminatory policy.
“To fly to israel today and not care about the Orthodox community would be ludicrous,” said Ruth Conn, a spokeswoman for the airline.
The newspaper also reported that the airline, which is scheduled to begin its new service in July, would not serve kosher food on flights originating in Israel unless it is requested in advance.
The airline defended its “kosher-food-upon-request” policy by citing similar practices at TWA and other world wide carriers that service Israel, the paper reported.