Couple sues Kuwait Airways after Israeli passport denied at JFK

QUEENS (WABC) -- A woman from New York is embarking on what could be a groundbreaking challenge to a law in Kuwait that prohibits Israeli citizens from flying on Kuwait Airways.

She has now filed a lawsuit against airline.

"Of course I didn't expect that to happen," Iris Eliazarov said. "Especially living in New York, in America, where it's all about freedom."

Eliazarov didn't want a civil rights battle, she just wanted to go from JFK to London with her husband. But an airline employee told her she wasn't going anywhere.

"'There's no way you're getting on that flight,' and I said 'Why not?'" she said. "And he said, 'Because you have an Israeli passport.'"

Iris travels with an Israeli passport, but her husband, David Nektalov, is American. He stepped in, but got the same response.

"He's like, 'No, I'm serious, she's not getting on that plane," he said. "I'm like, 'C'mon, don't do this to us. You can't discriminate against us.' He's like, 'Listen, she's not getting on that plane.'"

The couple had booked their trip on Kuwait Airlines, which is owned by the government of Kuwait, the same country the United States liberated in 1991 after Iraq invaded it. But Kuwait does not recognize Israel, and that means they don't recognize Eliazarov's passport.

"He did apologize, but he didn't seem like he wanted to help us in any way," she said.

The airline booked her on a different airline, but refused to re-book her husband. They had to travel separately, and they felt that a lawsuit was necessary.

"I do want them to change their policy, because I don't think anyone should go through what I went through," Eliazarov said.

"I want their laws, their rules to change," Nektalov said. "If they want to service Americans, they want to make money, they have to go by American laws."

But it's not altogether clear if Kuwait Airlines violated any American laws. The airline is contesting the lawsuit, though they refused to talk with Eyewitness News about the matter.
Copyright © 2022 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.