Aviation

Woman sues airline after ultra-Orthodox men refuse to sit next to her on flight

A woman is suing EasyJet for almost $30,000 after she was asked to change seats at the request of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men who refused to sit next to her.

British-Israeli woman Melanie Woldson was flying from Tel Aviv to London last October when an ultra-Orthodox man and his son asked her to switch seats with a man a few rows ahead, according to Haaretz.

Despite Wolfson having paid extra for an aisle seat, an EasyJet flight attendant offered her a free hot drink as compensation for having to move. She eventually complied with the request as she reportedly felt she had no choice and didn’t want to hold up the flight.

Wolfson told Haaretz she felt “insulted and humiliated” by the request.

“I would not have had any problem whatsoever switching seats if it were to allow members of a family or friends to sit together, but the fact that I was being asked to do this because I was a woman was why I refused,” she said.

During another EasyJet flight to London two months later, Wolfson was again asked to move seats at the request of a group of ultra-Orthodox men. This time, Wolfson refused, but two women switched with the men and took the seats next to her.

After having multiple complaints to the airline ignored, Wolfson sued for violation of an Israeli law that prohibits discrimination against customers based on race, religion and gender, among other things.

The lawsuit was filed on her behalf by the Israel Religious Action Centre, which won a similar case against Israeli national carrier El Al in 2017, The Guardian reported.

In a landmark ruling, 82-year-old Holocaust survivor Renee Rabinowitz won the case after an Israeli judge ruled that “under absolutely no circumstances can a crew member ask a passenger to move from their designated seat because the adjacent passenger doesn’t want to sit next to them due to their gender”.

While Jewish modesty laws require a level of gender separation under various circumstances, some ultra-Orthodox or Haredi Jews extend the separation to public life.

EasyJet said in a statement that it takes claims of this nature very seriously.

“Whilst it would be inappropriate to comment, as this matter is currently the subject of legal proceedings, we do not discriminate on any grounds,” the airline said.


Featured image source: iStock/izusek

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