NEW YORK (JTA) — A New York rabbi-attorney claimed that some El Al Airlines’ policies may violate U.S. law in the wake of delays on flights because haredi Orthodox men refused to sit next to women.
Rabbi Iris Richman, posting Tuesday on the Facebook page of Jewish Voices Together, cited a federal law that states “An air carrier or foreign air carrier may not subject a person in air transportation to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, or ancestry.”
Richman told Haaretz that she called the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division and was informed that the department was “willing to investigate any situation where any employee of a carrier, i.e steward/ess participated in asking someone to change a seat because of their gender.”
Her post followed two days after the launch of an online petition calling on El Al to provide a small section of gender-segregated seats for an extra fee. More than 3,000 people have signed the petition, which also charges that the Israeli airline permits “female passengers to be bullied, harassed and intimidated into switching seats which they rightfully paid for and were assigned to.”
El Al maintains that it does not discriminate against passengers. An airline spokeswoman told Haaretz, “Our policy in general is to try to accommodate any customer request.”