Delta Air Lines has confirmed that it is investigating an incident in which a flight attendant allegedly referred to a visibly Orthodox Jewish man and his family as “you people” in what appeared to be an antisemitic slur.
The alleged incident took place as passengers were boarding the Delta Air flight from Fort Lauderdale to LaGuardia on Monday, January 23, according to the victim who recounted his story to Jewish news publication Hamodia.
The victim, who wishes to remain anonymous, claims that after airline managers cleared him to fly, the flight attendant issued an ultimatum – either he was removed from the plane or the flight attendant would refuse to work and the flight would have to be canceled.
The first altercation with the flight attendant occurred as the man boarded Delta flight DL1541 on Monday evening with his carry-on suitcase and a hatbox. The man placed both items in the overhead bin, which almost immediately provoked a reaction from the flight attendant.
According to the victim’s account, the female flight attendant marched over to him and remonstrated: “You people always have tons of luggage. Why can’t you put the hat box under your feet?”
The use of “you people” has been taken to refer to visibly Jewish people and could be interpreted as being antisemitic.
The man says he agreed to comply with the flight attendant’s request if the need arose but initially pushed back and pointed out that there was still plenty of space available for other bags in the overhead bins.
A short time later, however, the flight attendant allegedly returned and grabbed the man’s suitcase to move it to another spot. When the man told her to leave his belongings alone, the flight attendant left but then returned with ground personnel who escorted him off the plane.
Once off the aircraft, the victim says he was allowed to share his side of the story and he was cleared to board the plane before the flight attendant threatened to deplane herself should he be allowed back onboard the plane.
The victim says Delta chose to keep the flight attendant onboard the aircraft and offered him hotel accommodation for the night, as well as a $500 travel voucher.
One witness onboard the flight has been quoted as backing up the victim’s account, saying the flight attendant “took his bag in a rage for no reason.” His lawyer stresses that the victim’s luggage was within Delta’s permitted allowance.
“Delta is aware of and in the preliminary stages of investigating a situation regarding a customer being asked to exit flight 1541 and be rebooked on an alternate flight,” the airline has said in a statement addressing the incident.
“We are committed to using the results this investigation to come to a full understanding of the events that took place and respond as appropriate,” the statement continued.
Last November, German flag carrier Lufthansa agreed to a $2.7 million payout to settle a lawsuit brought by a group of Jewish passengers who claimed they were removed from a flight because they “looked” Jewish.
Following the May 2022 incident, Lufthansa has introduced new employee training, adopted a wider encompassing definition of antisemitism and is continuing to work with the American Jewish Committee to develop corporate sensitivity training sessions.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.