Israeli woman accuses airline of 'humiliating her' to appease Orthodox travellers

Neria Kraus said that she felt pressured into moving seats on a flight from Israel


A United Airlines plane departs the Newark International Airport, in Newark, New Jersey, on January 11 2023. - The US Federal Aviation Authority said Wednesday that normal flight operations "are resuming gradually" across the country following an overnight systems outage that grounded departures. (Photo by Kena Betancur / AFP) (Photo by KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images)

An Israeli journalist has accused airline staff of trying to force her to move seats to accommodate Charedi passengers on a flight from Israel to New York.

Neria Kraus, a US-based Israeli TV reporter said that she was repeatedly asked to move by male strictly Orthodox passengers, and when she refused, was blamed by cabin crew for potentially delaying the flight.

The flight, United Airlines flight 85 departed Ben Gurion international airport in Tel Aviv 28 minutes behind schedule at 12:30 PM and was scheduled to arrive at Newark International Airport in New Jersey at 4:30 PM local time.

In a tweet, Kraus wrote: "The stewardess in charge, an Israeli who speaks Hebrew, approached me and shouted at me that the flight will not take off."

Kraus also alleged that the female flight attendant said that the plane might have to stop in Egypt because she refused to change seats.

She also accused the airline of discriminating against her on the basis of her gender. She told Haaretz: “I refused to move because I’m a woman. This is pure discrimination.”

Kraus added that the flight attendant allegedly said: "‘This flight will not take off because of you, you’re the reason why this flight will not take off. Because of you, they will land in Egypt,’”

She added: “I was humiliated in front of the entire aeroplane because of my gender.”

In a statement, United Airlines told the JC: "We offered the customer another seat - which was declined - the flight departed for New York/Newark and is expected to arrive on time."

After the flight landed, one of the passengers pictured by Kraus disputed her version of events, saying that he only asked her to move seats to allow two of his party to sit together.

The man, who only gave his name as "Nigel" said in a Twitter interview that the disagreement only became hostile when he removed his baseball hat to reveal a kippah.

After the video was published, Kraus denied the man's version of events, tweeting that she believed the man was lying and repeated that she felt targeted to swap seats because she was a woman.

Multiple airlines have previously run into issues with Charedi travellers refusing to sit next to members of the opposite sex.

In 2021, a traveller was awarded compensation from Easyjet after she was forced to move seats to accommodate a strictly Orthodox passenger.

EasyJet said at the time that it would roll out additional crew-member training and renew its guidelines to prevent similar incidents in the future.
The airline also said its policy is to politely decline passengers’ requests that women move seats because of their gender.

In a court case in 2017, an Israeli court said that national carrier El Al could no longer require seat changes based on gender.

The court also ruled that staff had to be trained and should not pressure female passengers to move.

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