WASHINGTON (Oct. 22)
British Airways has denied that it discriminated against an Orthodox Jew who said he was booted out of an airline lounge for praying.
Aaron Tyk, an assistant attorney general for New York state, went to the lounge last week to quietly recite his morning prayers during a layover at London’s Heathrow Airport.
When he concluded, a British Airways employee approached him and asked him to leave.
“I was told that as a Jew I cannot be there, it was only for Muslims,” said Tyk, adding, “I was made to feel like someone in Nazi Europe in the `30s.”
The airline denied that its employee made any reference to Tyk’s religion or that its lounge was reserved for Muslims.
“Ethnicity and religious background has nothing to do with an entitlement to a particular lounge,” said John Lampl, a British Airways spokesman in New York.
Lampl said Tyk was not authorized to be in the lounge because it is reserved for executive club members and for passengers traveling from North America, India and the Middle East.
Tyk was en route from Tel Aviv to New York.
Lampl said the airline considers Israel part of Europe for operational purposes because it is a “short-haul flight.”
Flights from Cairo and Persian Gulf states, however, are considered part of their long-haul operations, Lampl said.
Tyk was astounded by the explanation.
“They’ve attempted to accomplish what the Arab states have not been able to accomplish, and that is to eradicate Israel from the Middle East,” he said.
The airline said Tyk was asked to leave only after it was determined that he was not authorized to be there, but Tyk maintains that the employee, a senior customer service agent, never asked about his itinerary or wanted to see his ticket.
“I was evicted from the lounge only because I was Jewish,” said Tyk, who sometimes defends state agencies against employees’ discrimination claims.
In a letter to the chairman of British Airways, New York Attorney General Dennis Vacco wrote: “I am outraged that anyone should be denied access to places of public accommodation based on the fact that they appear to belong to a particular ethnic group.
“That a person should be so treated for the quiet observation of their most sacred religious beliefs is especially outrageous.”
Lampl said British Airways was in the process of sending an explanation and an apology to Tyk through Vacco.
“We feel very bad about it,” Lampl said.