A Jewish family is suing American Airlines for $75,000, alleging discrimination and defamation after being removed from a flight to Detroit last year for what American called “extremely offensive body odor”.
Yehuda and Jennie Adler were traveling with their 18-month-year-old daughter from Miami to Detroit in January 2019. Just minutes after boarding, a gate agent approached them and advised them they would need to deplane. The Adlers say the agent mentioned it was an “emergency” but did not explain onboard. With eight children at home in Michigan, the Adlers feared the worst and wasted no time in stepping off the aircraft.
Once they were off the aircraft, the agent explained why they were removed: captain’s orders. Several passengers as well as flight crew members allegedly complained to him about an “extremely offensive body odor” emanating from one or all fo the Adler family members.
The Adlers claimed they had just bathed that morning and began approaching people in the boarding area, asking if they could detect a foul body odor.
The Jewish part of the story is relevant, according to the plaintiffs, because their lawsuit claims the gate agent made disparaging remarks, stating that Orthodox Jews only bathe once per week. Also, the Adlers say what fueled their removal was after the flight crew saw their religious headgear and became upset when they asked for free headphones.
American Disputes Passenger Account
American Airlines is denying any wrongdoing, publicly disputing the Adler’s characterization of what happened:
“The Adler family was asked to deplane after multiple passengers and our crew members complained about Mr Adler’s body odour. The decision was made out of concern for the comfort of our other passengers.
“None of the decisions made by our team in handling this sensitive situation were based on the Adler’s religion
American Airlines also added that it provided a hotel room and meal vouchers and re-booked the Adlers for the following day.
Furthermore, other passengers have backed up American Airlines. One spoke on the record with the Washington Post. Another tweeted this:
OMG – we were in this flight! The family sat right behind us. The body odor was awful! Saw that they deplaned, but wasn’t sure what happened until I read this.
— Barbara C Yavorcik (@BYavorcik) January 25, 2019
This lawsuit may in fact be headed to court, so a jury can sort out what really happened. I tend to think there was an odor – why else would they be removed? Would American Airlines really remove someone for asking for free headphones?
But I also suspect that the gate agent did make totally innaproptie and unfounded remarks about their faith practices. But at this point I am just speculating. This is another interesting case that I will be watching closely. However it turns out, it is an important reminder never to make assumptions about people and how harsh words only inflame situations.