Greece’s Aegean Airlines issued an apology Tuesday afternoon for an incident in which Israeli passengers demanded that two Palestinian travelers be removed from a plane.
Cabin crew were forced to remove two Palestinians from a recent flight from Greece to Israel following demands made by Israeli passengers.
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The incident happened at Athens airport on Monday night when Jewish Israeli passengers decided that the two Israeli Arab passengers on the flight were a security risk. They alerted the crew about their concerns and prevented the flight from taking off by standing in the aisles.
The Palestinian passengers acceded to crew requests that they disembark, in return for a hotel room and compensation.
According to the airline, “an initially small group” of passengers “very vocally and persistently” demanded that two Israeli Arab citizens be “checked for security issues.”
With the flight unable to take off, the captain called the airport police, who checked the “documents and identities” of the two passengers and found nothing amiss.
But by then, “a much larger group of passengers” had begun protesting the presence of the two Israeli Arabs, “despite the assurances given by the crew, according to Aegean Airlines.”
The flight was delayed by more than an hour-and-a-half until the two Israeli Arab passengers agreed to disembark. Even after that, the group of passengers insisted that the crew conduct an additional security check, causing the captain to warn them that they would be forcibly removed from the plane without compensation.
At that point, the passengers took their seats and the plane took off for Tel Aviv.
“We again thank the two Israeli passengers who agreed to disembark for their understanding and collaboration and we apologize for the whole episode, which was indeed extremely unfortunate,” the Aegean Airlines spokesman said.
MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) called for an urgent meeting of the Economic Affairs Committee to discuss the incident.
“The State of Israel has a responsibility to its citizens,” Rozin argued. “I can’t be that a commercial company, which has signed aviation agreements with Israel, allows itself to disembark passengers based on their physical appearance at the demands of (other) passengers.”
Rozin continued, placing blame for the incident on government leaders, saying that “the prime minister and his ministers sow fear and hate through slander and incitement, and this is the result. The government must understand that marking Israeli-Arab citizens as potential terrorists leads to the loss of morals and values that endangers our future as a society.”