Israeli airline condemned for moving female passengers after ultra-Orthodox men refused to sit next to them

Staff Reporter

An Israeli airline has been accused of discrimination after moving two female passengers when four ultra-Orthodox Jews refused to sit next to the women.

The El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv was delayed for more than an hour while new seats were found for the pair.

When flight attendants tried to reason with the men, the group refused to speak to them too – because they were also female.

It follows a similar incident last year when a case of discrimination was filed against the airline by a woman who had also been shifted from her designated seat for the same reason.

In that instance, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that asking a passenger to move seat based on gender is a form of discrimination.

During this week’s incident, one person claiming to be a passenger, Khen Rotem, gave a running commentary of unfolding events on Facebook: “All the men in the crew, except for the captain, are now only dealing with this instead of preparing for take-off and serving the passengers,” he wrote in one post, reported by The Times of Israel.

He added that eventually an elderly American and young Israeli switched seats, allowing the plane to begin its journey.

Mr Rotem also described one of the men as “particularly devout”, revealing how he got on the plane with his eyes closed and kept them shut for the duration of the flight – an apparent effort not to engage with any women on board.

In a statement, El Al said apologised of the “inconvenience” to passengers.

It said: "Any discrimination against passengers is absolutely forbidden. El Al flight attendants do all they can in order to provide service to a wide variety of passengers with different and diverse requests and try to assist to the best of their ability.”