Female Delta Airlines Passengers Claim Discrimination After Being Asked To Change Seats For Religious Reasons

Cheryl Phillips - Author
By

Dec. 30 2014, Updated 12:32 p.m. ET

Two female Delta Airlines passengers are claiming discrimination after a group of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men asked them to move from their assigned seats. Israel Radio reported on December 26 that Delta Flight 468, bound for Tel Aviv, was delayed for more then 30 minutes at New York’s JFK Airport last week when several Haredi men would not sit in their seats because they would have to sit between two women. The two women refused to exchange seats, reportedly claiming that they were discriminated against due to the men’s religious beliefs.

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According to About, a person who abides by the Jewish law that prohibits touch is considered a shomer negiah. The term “negiah” translates to “observant of touch” — a concept that forbids physical contact between men and women unless they are with their immediate family, including their parents, grandparents, spouse, children or grandchildren.

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“The laws of negiah are typically followed by Orthodox Jews, with varying levels of observance. Some Orthodox Jews follow the laws with strict modesty and take measures to avoid accidental contact, such as avoiding sitting next to a member of the opposite sex on a bus, airplane, or other similar seating situation. Others are more lenient, only avoiding purposeful contact.”

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This is the second time in three months that women on a flight originating in the U.S. have been asked to move due to other passengers religious beliefs, with the last incident taking place on an El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv in September.

According to Mail Online, passengers aboard the September El Al flight reported that several ultra-Orthodox Jewish men stood in the aisles of the plane and refused to sit in their assigned seats. The crew aboard the plane reportedly told passengers that they were not required to change seats, but the flight would not depart until everyone was seated.

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“People stood in the aisles and refused to go forward… Although everyone had tickets with seat numbers that they purchased in advance, they asked us to trade seats with them, and even offered to pay money, since they cannot sit next to a woman. It was obvious that the plane wouldn’t take off as long as they keep standing in the aisles.”

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Delta Airlines has yet to issue a statement about last week’s incident involving two women who refused to move from their seats due to the religious beliefs of the Haredi men who would not sit next to them.

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