U.S. Airline Apologizes for Alerting Security Over Jews Using Tefillin on Flight

Alaska Airlines says it plans to incorporate awareness training of Orthodox Jewish religious practices for their staff to avoid further misunderstandings.

Alaska Airlines apologizes Thursday for the misunderstanding that occurred earlier this week on board one of their flights, in which flight attendants issued a security alert when three Mexican Jews began praying with Tefillin.

"To help make sure this misunderstanding does not happen again, we plan to incorporate awareness training of Orthodox Jewish religious practices into our ongoing diversity and inclusion efforts," a statement issued by the airlines said.

Tefillin- Itzik Ben-Malki
Itzik Ben-Malki

Flight attendants aboard Alaska Airlines Flight 241 from Mexico City to Los Angeles issued a security alert on Sunday after three Orthodox Jewish passengers began praying with Tefillin.

Following the alert the place was met at LAX by fire crews, foam trucks, FBI agents, and police.

"Out of concern for the safety of all of the passengers onboard, the crew erred on the side of caution and authorities were notified. The crew did not realize at the time that the passengers were Orthodox Jews engaging in prayer ritual in Hebrew," the statement said.

The statement also listed the men's behavior which made them seem suspicious, like the fact that they did not heed the request to remain seated shortly after takeoff, they carried boxes that seemed unusual and only later did they understand that they were for their tefillin, and "the men prayed aloud together in a language unfamiliar to the crew while wearing what appeared to be black tape and wires strapped to their forearms and foreheads and wires on their chests."

"The safety and security of our passengers is our top priority. While our flight crews must be vigilant in watching for suspicious behavior, they are also trained to be aware and recognize the personalities and practices of a very broad and diverse group of travelers. Out of an abundance of caution to protect all of our customers, we misinterpreted the behavior of the three passengers who were praying and wearing tefillin," the statement said.