Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Comair cites bodyguard's gun,
lack of paperwork

Airline explains why pilot kicked off Israeli official

By James Pilcher jpilcher@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Comair officials said Monday that the reason a high-ranking Israeli official was not allowed to board a flight to Toronto last week was the pilot had not received proper documentation to allow a loaded firearm onboard.

        Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchior complained on an Israeli radio station Sunday about the incident. He said the pilot had deemed him and his party a security risk, and that having Israeli diplomats removed from planes as security risks was “intolerable.”

        But Nick Miller, spokesman for Erlanger-based Comair, denied it had anything to do with Mr. Melchior's nationality. Apparently one of Mr. Melchior's bodyguards was carrying a loaded weapon but did not have the proper documentation.

        Mr. Miller did not reveal the name of the pilot in question but said Mr. Melchior and his party were allowed to board the next Comair flight from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport to Toronto after the proper documents were produced, about a two-hour delay.

        “Comair's decision to re-accommodate the deputy foreign minister and his party on a later flight was based solely on the need to comply with federal regulations and airline policies that govern ... safety and security,” Mr. Miller said. “Comair does not tolerate discrimination.”

        The Israeli station reported this was the third time an Israeli official had been turned away by a U.S. airline because of a perceived security risk. In at least one case, the pilot in question said he was concerned that high-ranking Israeli officials were potential terrorist targets.

        Mr. Melchior, who had been visiting friends in the Cincinnati area, said the Israeli government has taken up the issue with the State Department in Washington.


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