Israel’s airline will ‘immediately’ remove passengers who refuse to sit next to women, CEO says


JERUSALEM (JTA) — El Al will “immediately” remove any passenger who refuses to sit next to another passenger for any reason, its CEO announced, but not before a major Israeli tech company announced it would no longer fly its employees on the airline.

On Monday, NICE System’s CEO Barak Eilam announced via posts on social media that “At NICE we don’t do business with companies that discriminate against race, gender or religion. NICE will not fly @EL AL Israel Airlines until they change their practice and actions discriminating women.”

Eilam’s announcement came days after an El Al flight from New York to Israel was delayed by more than an hour after four haredi Orthodox men refused to take their assigned seats next to women. Two women eventually agreed to change their seats in order to allow the flight to take off.

An account of the incident was posted on Facebook by a passenger, the Israeli rapper Khen Rotem.

NICE, based in Raanana, has an annual company revenue of over $1 billion.

El Al CEO Gonen Usishkin said in a statement Monday evening: “The post by the CEO of Nice was made hastily without checking the facts, and I made that clear in a call with him. The El Al personnel who dealt with the incident did so with due sensitivity. Anyone who flies on the national airline senses the values on which we built the company: an egalitarian company that makes no distinctions on the basis of religion, race or gender. For the removal of doubt, today I ordered that the procedures on this matter should be tightened, and in future any passenger who refuses to sit beside another passenger will immediately be removed from the flight.”

Following the incident on Thursday evening, El Al apologized in a statement and added: “Any discrimination by passengers is absolutely forbidden. El Al flight attendants do everything that they can to provide service to a wide range of passengers and various requests and try to assist.”

One year ago, an Israeli court ruled that El Al cannot ask women to move seats to accommodate a man who does not want to sit next to a woman. The court was responding to a lawsuit filed by a female Holocaust survivor in her 80s.

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