Delta Flight From N.Y. to Israel Delayed After ultra-Orthodox Refused to Sit by Women

Delta airlines flight 468 earlier this month was delayed by 30 minutes because two Haredi men refused to sit in seats between two female passengers.

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A Delta flight from New York to Israel was delayed earlier this month when ultra-Orthodox passengers refused to sit between women, Israel Radio reported on Friday.

On December 20, Delta Flight 468 from Kennedy airport was delayed by 30 minutes because two Haredi men refused to sit in their assigned seats between two female passengers.

The flight crew made an effort to find them another seat, but the two female passengers refused to give up their seats in protest at what they saw as discrimination, Israel Radio reported.

Eventually, an American pilgrim agreed to swap seats, and the plane took off.

In October, the same flight suffered a similar delay after ultra-Orthodox men and women refused to take their seats next to members of the opposite sex. Instead, the Haredi passengers got off the plane. Their baggage then had to be located and removed from the baggage compartment, causing the plane to take off about an hour and a quarter late that time.

A number of similar incidents were reported in the media earlier this year, bringing the controversial issue into the headlines. In some cases, the men reportedly offered to pay the female passengers to switch their seats. 

In September, a petition on Change.org urged Israel's El Al to take action on the issue. “Why does El Al Airlines permit female passengers to be bullied, harassed, and intimidated into switching seats which they rightfully paid for and were assigned to by El Al Airlines? One person's religious rights does not trump another person's civil rights.“  

Earlier this year, El Al told Haaretz that despite the public outcry over the issue, the airline has no official policy for dealing with it, and has no intention of putting one in place.

A spokeswoman for the airline said that its “policy in general is to try to accommodate any customer request,” and that it deals with requests on a case-by-case basis.

Also, in wake of the Change.org petition, New York Conservative rabbi and attorney Iris Richman called on unhappy customers to put pressure on airlines by using a U.S. federal law that prohibits discrimination on flights to and from the United States.

Richman posted a callout on Facebook quoting “49 U.S. Code § 40127 – Prohibitions on discrimination a) Persons in Air Transportation.” According to this directive, she wrote, “An air carrier or foreign air carrier may not subject a person in air transportation to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex or ancestry.”