Eighteen American Orthodox Girls Kicked Off Two Amsterdam-New York Flights, as Rabbi Charges Antisemitism
Eighteen American Orthodox Jewish girls visiting Europe were barred and ejected from two separate flights in recent days, prompting their rabbi and a New York Orthodox organization to accuse airlines KLM and Delta of antisemitic discrimination.
Rabbi Yisroel Kahan said the group of Orthodox girls, who had been in Ukraine visiting religious sites, were barred from a KLM Amsterdam-New York flight on Thursday, and then ejected from a Delta flight on Friday for swapping seats, Business Insider reported.
The outlet said that the girls were prevented from flying on Thursday due to an issue with COVID-19 protocols.
Kahan claimed that the group had to sleep at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam while he and another chaperone attempted to find another flight to New York.
New York Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand were contacted, with Schumer apparently intervening personally, prompting Delta executives to schedule a Friday flight for the girls — from which they were then ejected as well.
According to the rabbi, after attempting to switch seats with another passenger, a flight attendant told one of the girls, “You’re misbehaving, you’re kind of on thin ice to begin with, get off the plane.”
Business Insider said it had seen a video of the incident that appeared to confirm the rabbi’s story.
The girls were then forced to refuse another Delta flight because it would have arrived in New York during Shabbat. They ultimately stayed overnight in Antwerp and returned to the US on Sunday.
Kahan charged that antisemitism was a likely motive behind the girls’ treatment, saying, “if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”
A Delta representative defended the airline in an email to Business Insider, saying, “We apologize to our customers on Delta Flight 47, Amsterdam to New York-JFK, who were delayed and inconvenienced to remove a group of passengers who refused to comply with crew instructions. The flight departed approximately two hours after its originally scheduled time.”
On Twitter, the United Jewish Organizations (UJO) of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn decried the treatment received by the group of girls, detailing its efforts to assist them as well as those of Schumer and New York Congressional Rep. Nydia Velazquez.
“We’re happy they are finally home,” UJO said of the girls, “but can’t shrug away this incident.”
“The reason these girls were barred from flying and then deplaned is evolving. From mask violations; to agreeing to a stranger’s request to switch seats, and switching back when told it’s against airline policy; and now KLM claims it was because they weren’t served kosher food and removed their own outside mealtimes, while there is no posted policies re mealtime.”
“It’s clear this was a well-behaved group desperate to return home and definitely didn’t wantonly violate airlines rules,” the group said.
“The circumstances point that KLM (which is sharing flights with Delta) employee/s decided to block this group from flying and it’s likely that antisemitism played a role,” they asserted.
The UJO expressed hope that the FAA would investigate the incidents.