British airline easyJet will pay an undisclosed amount to an Israeli-British woman who was asked by ultra-Orthodox men to switch seats with a man.
Melanie Wolfson sued the company for 15,000 pounds last year, saying that she was asked to move from her seat – for which she paid an additional fee so she could have an aisle seat – because she was a woman, and was not backed by airline staff when she initially refused.
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Woldson said a flight attendant offered her a hot beverage to convince her to switch seats. According to her lawsuit, flight attendants told her that women are often asked to move seats at the request of ultra-Orthodox men. She ultimately felt she had no choice and agreed to move to another seat, mostly because she was worried the flight would be delayed, she said.
Two months after that incident, Wolfon’s lawsuit said, she was again asked on an easyJet flight to switch seats by ultra-Orthodox men. She refused, and two other women agreed to switch seats. According to the lawsuit, airline staff again failed to intervene and defend her right to the seat.
Wolfson complained to the company after these two incidents, and filed a lawsuit after getting no response, based on Israeli law that forbids discrimination based on gender, race, religion, nationality or political beliefs. The lawsuit argued that although easyJet does not have a representative office in Israel, Israeli law is supposed to apply in Wolfson’s case, as the incidents occurred at Ben-Gurion International Airport.
Speaking with Haaretz last August, Wolfson said she was “insulted and humiliated” by the request that she move. “It was the first time in my adult life that I was discriminated against for being a woman,” she said. “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.”
A statement from easyJet said that if a woman is asked to move seats because of her gender, the company “has a policy to politely inform any customer who raises this request that this will not be accommodated. Unfortunately, according to Melanie Wolfson, this policy was not followed in her case.”