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easyJet Pays Compensation to Passenger Who Cabin Crew Asked to Move Seats Because of Her Gender

easyJet Pays Compensation to Passenger Who Cabin Crew Asked to Move Seats Because of Her Gender

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British budget airline easyJet has paid an undisclosed sum in compensation to a British-Israeli woman who was asked to switch seats by cabin crew because of her gender. The woman had filed a lawsuit against easyJet alleging flight attendants pressured her into giving up a seat she had paid extra for in order to accommodate an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man who claimed his faith prevented him from sitting next to a woman.

Despite the desire of airline crew to accommodate the religious needs of Haredi Jews on flights to and from Israel, the practice is outlawed by anti-discrimination rules which were passed by Israeli politicians more than 20-years ago.

a group of people on an airplane
Photo Credit: easyJet

Melanie Wolfson, who lives in Tel Aviv but used to travel regularly between Israel and London, was supported by the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) which also helped an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor successfully sue Israeli flag carrier El Al after a similar incident in 2015.

Wolfson claimed that after boarding an easyJet flight from Tel Aviv to London on October 10, 2019, she sat down in her aisle seat which happened to be next to an ultra-Orthodox man and his son. The man’s son allegedly climbed out of his seat and into the row behind in order to avoid physical contact with her and immediately started to look for a male passenger who was willing to swap seats.

A male passenger who was happy to take Ms Wolfson’s seat was found but Wolfson initially refused because she felt she was being discriminated against solely for her gender.

A member of cabin crew got involved and tried to convince Wolfson to move seats by offering a free hot drink from the buy onboard cart. Eventually, Wolfson says she agreed to move because she feared she would be held responsible for delaying the flight.

easyJet claims it is aware that ultra-orthodox Jewish men regularly ask to change seating assignments in order to avoid sitting next to a woman not in their household but that the airline has a policy not to give in to these demands.

Wolfson, however, says she spoke to cabin crew on the flight who told her they normally asked the female passenger to move in such incidents to avoid any problems.

After filing a complaint, Wolfson still hadn’t received a response when two months later she was then caught up in a very similar incident on another easyJet flight from Tel Aviv to London. On that occasion, two other female passengers agreed to swap seats with two male passengers.

Wolfson had been seeking US$19,515 in compensation from easyJet but on Wednesday night, the airline said in a joint statement with the Israel Religious Action Center that it had reached an undisclosed out of court settlement.

“easyJet is committed to tackling any discrimination on flights. Therefore, we listened when Ms Wolfson told us about incidents of gender discrimination on our flights when she was asked to move simply because she is female,” the joint statement read.

“We take this very seriously and in addition to compensating Ms Wolfson for her experience, easyJet intends to implement additional crew training and renew our crew guidelines in order to prevent these incidents from happening in the future.”

“At easyJet we believe that flying should be a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone, regardless of their gender and we are committed to making sure this is the case going forward,” the statement continued.

In 2017, an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor and a former lawyer, Renee Rabinowitz won a landmark case against Israeli airline El Al in which the judge ruled that “under absolutely no circumstances can a crew member ask a passenger to move from their designated seat because the adjacent passenger doesn’t want to sit next to them due to their gender”.

El Al now has a policy of offloading any passenger that refuses their seating assignment because they would be sat next to someone of the opposite gender.

View Comments (14)
  • This is amazing. I always refused to swap my seat because jewish/muslim man wants to sit with another man for religious reasons. Instead I asked him to swap his seat with a woman since he is the one having issues with sitting next to me. Women must not be bothered in this case.

    • I agree or why don’t they just purchase 2 seats if it’s that serious and they would never be in that situation

      • @ Moon : Indeed! In fact, “Yes’s” comment about telling the religious man to swap seats with a woman doesn’t really make much sense, because it’s not about who the man swap seats with, it’s about who he winds up NEXT TO.

        (But Yes’s larger point that the burden of changing seats should be on the man who is complaining, rather than the passenger whom he’s sitting next to, is well taken.)

  • Stupidest thing ever. The person who has issues where his/her seat is should be required to move…NOT a person who paid for their seat and didn’t complain about a seat mate. I never would’ve changed my seat even if the flight took a departure delay. She wasn’t the problem..he was. If he was so concerned about who would sit next to him, he should’ve gone by car or not gone at all. Since his kid moved to another seat, seems like there was an empty seat between him and her. If that’s not good enough he should bought all three seats in a row for him and his son. She shouldn’t have been intimidated and she should’ve kept her seat.

  • Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve.
    In law she has no standing.
    She agreed to move and did so.
    She changed the contract with the airline by doing that.
    Saying she did so because she said she was afraid she might delay the flight is just an excuse she’s using because she and her lawyer knows she’s got no leg to stand on.
    She’s just lucky the airline have her anything at all.
    They didn’t have to.

    • Cynic, you couldn’t be more wrong.  Do you have any idea how much pressure an airline crew can bring to bear on a passenger?   It’s not like in the normal world.  Inside an airplane, the crew is God.  Hell, they’re higher than God.  They’re Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un put together.  They can do whatever they want, and if you don’t comply, you can be physically removed and will be met with gun-toting Law Enforcement Officers on the tarmac and hauled off to jail.

      Have you forgotten the infamous incident where an innocent Chinese doctor was brutally removed from a United Airlines flight because they had overbooked it? 

      Ms. Wolfson was badly treated and deserves to be compensated.  As others here have stated, if an ultra-orthodox religious fanatic has a problem with sitting next to a woman, HE is the one who should move, not the woman! 

  • Absolutely ridiculous that the woman was asked to give up her seat!! She should have stood her ground whether it took a delay or not. If he didn’t want to sit next a woman then he should have driven himself or taken a very long walk.

  • I have been flying internationally for 33 years as a flight attendant. In similar circumstances, I first ask the lady if she might be open to changing seats. If she is and there is an open First/Business class seat, I ask the gate agent to re-seat her in it. If there is not an available upgraded seat, I make sure she still reaps the rewards from making my life easier — she will receive a First/Biz meal, ice cream sundae, comp cocktails, amenity kit, extra blankets, etc. (even if I have to give her my 1st/Biz meal & crew rest blanket). I do understand that on occasion, a passenger has specific seat requirements, including the male passenger in the article. My first mental response is if he (or she) knew there might be an issue with another passenger sitting next to him/her, why didn’t he simply purchase the adjacent seat for 1/2 price and leave it vacant. Usually, this mental note of mine happens when a passenger is too large for just one seat and is literally spilling over into the seat of the adjacent passenger. I realize the article refers to a religious preference (?)
    of a male not wanting to sit next to a female; However, given the legal precedence set in Tel Aviv of all places, I don’t blame the lady for suing & accepting a settlement.

  • If this was of such value and importance to him, then he’s the one who needs to be more flexible and/or purchase another ticket. What was fine for his convenience became an inconvenience for another. Unacceptable.

  • Entitled male bs.. I would have told him to get bent.. Unless HE wants to reimburse me in FULL for my paid for seat.. Only an entitled male would take his side!

  • Oh no! They asked her to change seats! Heaven forbid. That must’ve ruined her entire life….to sit in a different seat…. what a crock. All of you defending this lawsuit need to grow up. I have been asked to move tl another seat to acommodate a family. Gurantee its because Im a male and they dont want men sitting next to their children. NO DIFFERENT. Just bite your lip and change seats without making it a big scene.

  • You need to get real. She paid extra for the seat. Why should she have to move when the guy had the issue? He had to sit next to a female, big deal. If it was, then he could’ve avoided the scene & moved.

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