Last week, Lufthansa Flight 401 from JFK to Budapest became quite the story when a large group of Chasidic Jews were unable to board the plane after the first leg of the flight to Frankfurt. According to an extremely detailed report from Daniel Elef of DansDeals, it seems as though a small number of passengers were charged with not wearing their masks during the first leg of the flight. This caused major outrage that oddly united both the Right and Left wings of Judaism (antisemitism tends to do that).
If you spend any time on social media, or in the DansDeals forums, you will undoubtedly know by now that this story has been analyzed from just about every angle possible. However, there are three parts of the saga that need to be highlighted, as they aren’t being discussed much, even on social media. The first was a video of a Lufthansa supervisor explaining that the decision would have been racist if the customers were all African or from Holland. Only in one of those cases - but not where all passengers were who were disallowed on the flight were Jewish - would racism exist. I’m not sure why Hollanders were the selected group, but hey, what do I know? Apparently, this Lufthansa employee doesn’t believe that visibly Jewish people are able to be discriminated against.
The second part is that the mask enforcement was only applied in coach. Witnesses from first class claimed that not even the first-class flight attendants were masked during the flight. Lufthansa obviously either received data stating that COVID only infects those too poor to afford first-class seating, or they developed some sort of COVID repellant that was only made available to first-class passengers as a perk. Either way, we can only hope that Lufthansa shares this research with the rest of the world soon.
The third is the resolution. It took them almost a week, but Lufthansa finally released a statement admitting their wrongdoing. They are working with the affected passengers, and will likely offer them some sort of compensation. We will likely never find out what the passengers will receive, nor will we hear about any disciplinary action that may be taken against the employees who were behind any of the decision-making. So despite all the outrage, this story is probably over, and will likely not have a visible lasting impact on anything in the future.
The real story here is how outrage trumps all. The only driving force behind this issue is the outrage. The original DansDeals article - as well as social media chatter - features all sorts of World War II comparisons. That is patently absurd. Do people really think that a group of people being kicked off a flight has any right whatsoever to be compared to the Holocaust? At the very least, there were actual people breaking the law here, a law that is enforced equally regardless of race (but not regardless of income). In Nazi Germany, there were special laws made against Jews in particular. Should this have happened? No. But something that should not have happened is a far cry from the Third Reich.
But the outrage - that’s the important thing. As long as we are all outraged by what happened, we can try to start #boycottLufthansa hashtags on twitter and demand the public flogging of the captain. Outrage drives the headlines. And it’s not limited to this story. Outrage is the number one selling feature of any news story, whether that be the overruling of Roe v. Wade, Elon Musk buying Twitter, a Florida law banning certain topics from the classroom, or BLM riots. The only aspect that provides staying power is the outrage, and once the outrage dies, the story dies with it. That’s why this Lufthansa story has peaked. The airline apologized. The passengers got on the next flight. Those wronged will be compensated. Story over. We go back to our regular lives until the next outrage. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Izzo Zwiren is the host of The Jewish Living Podcast, where he and his guests delve into any and all areas of Orthodox Judaism.