By Ellen Cans
A Jewish couple from Southfield, Michigan is suing American Airlines for discrimination after being kicked off a flight last year. In the lawsuit, filed on Jan. 28 in federal court in Texas, the couple complains the crew threw them off for their alleged ‘body odor’.
As reported by the NY Post, the husband and wife, who traveled with their 19-month-old daughter from Miami to Detroit last January, say the Texas-based airline’s gate agent said he knew Orthodox Jews only bathed once a week, as per the suit.
The Detroit Free Press first reported, as per the lawsuit, that the humiliation began as soon as they boarded the plane. The husband, Yehuda, asked the stewardess for headsets, saying on their last flight they were told they may ask for them. The nearby pilot responded curtly saying, “I wasn’t on that plane and we don’t offer anything complimentary.”
Just minutes after taking their seats, a gate agent told the family that there was an emergency and asked them to de-board the plane, says the lawsuit. They were later informed it was because of body odor and that it was the pilot’s instructions. The agent would not clarify which family member had an odor, but as per the suit the husband and wife said they had showered in the morning.
On Thursday the airline responded in a statement saying, “Our team members took care of the family and provided hotel accommodations and meals, and rebooked them on a flight to Detroit the next morning,” the statement said. “None of the decisions made by our team in handling this sensitive situation were based on the Adler’s (sic) religion.”
According to the lawsuit, the “plaintiffs were distraught and even though embarrassing, approached persons in the same area of the boarding gate asking them if they could detect unpleasant body odor from any of the Adler family and each and every person (more than 20 people) answered in the negative.”
The family says they suffered not only the embarrassment and damage to their reputations, but also were left without their belongings. As per the suit, regardless of the airline’s promise to unload their luggage, the family says the plane left with their baby’s car seat, stroller, diapers and other belongings.
The Southfield couple was dressed in traditional orthodox garb—he donned a yarmulke head covering and she wore a shaytel or wig, with a long skirt. They say it made them unequal in the eyes of the airline. The family is asking punitive damages to be awarded as determined by a jury, in order to deter similar discrimination in the future. A scheduling conference on the matter is set for May 29.