Haredi Orthodox passengers sue El Al for Shabbat disruption


(JTA) — Haredi Orthodox passengers on an El Al flight in November that was forced to divert in order to allow Sabbath-observant passengers to get off the plane are suing the airline.

The 53 passengers filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of the 180 passengers that disembarked in Athens, Greece, rather than be on the plane at the onset of Shabbat.

They are seeking nearly $14,000 in damages for each of the passengers that got off the plane, Israel Hayom reported Tuesday. The passengers also are demanding that El Al publicly retract assertions that haredi passengers were violent and threatened the flight crew.

The flight, which left New York more than five hours late on Nov. 15, was diverted midflight to Athens, where the Shabbat observers disembarked and spent Saturday in a hotel near the airport. The rest of the passengers boarded an Israir plane several hours later and returned to Tel Aviv, since El Al does not fly on the Sabbath.

The flight had been delayed due to bad weather and was racing the clock to reach Israel before the start of the Sabbath. Dozens of passengers had demanded that the plane return to the gate at John F. Kennedy International Airport so they could disembark, but instead the plane took off.

According to the lawsuit, El Al reserved hotel rooms for just 53 of the 180 passengers who remained in Athens and there was not enough kosher food.

The airline compensated all 400 passengers aboard the flight with a free round-trip ticket to the European destination of their choice.

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