Sometimes stories are not what they first seem. A female passenger claims a United Airlines flight attendant threatened and shamed her when she refused to move seats for a Jewish passenger on a flight from Tel Aviv. But now the man has come forward and claimed the woman is a liar and there was no religious discrimination. A video of a galley conversation with a flight attendant has also emerged. There’s a fair bit to unpack here.
Woman Claims Gender Discrimination On United Airlines Tel Aviv Flight But Seatmate Says She Is Lying
Let’s first review what both sides agree on:
- The incident occurred on August 15, 2023 on UA85 from Tel Aviv (TLV) to Newark (EWR), operated by a Boeing 787-10
- A woman was asked to move seats by a male passenger wearing a yarmulke
- She refused, claiming gender discrimination
- A flight attendant intervened and threatened to cancel the flight
Now, let’s first examine what the woman, Israeli journalist Neria Kraus, claims:
- Her Haredi Jewish seatmate tried to “force” her to move seats so he would not have to sit next to a woman
- An United flight attendant, who was Israeli, approached her and yelled at her, warning the flight would not take off
- Three “amazing” seatmates, including two Israeli men and a women, supported her
A @united crew member yelled at me that the flight to NYC won’t take off because of me – after I refused to Ultra Orthodox passengers’ request to change my seat. I was told the flight might touch down in Egypt and it would be my fault. What a humiliating event for me as a woman.
— נריה קראוס Neria Kraus (@NeriaKraus) August 15, 2023
But the male passenger claims:
- On the United 787-10 (3-3-3 configuration in economy class), he was seated in the center section on one aisle set, his son in the middle set, the woman on the other aisle seat, and his son’s friend on the aisle seat across her
- He asked her to switch an aisle for aisle so that his son and his friend could sit next to one another
- When he removed his cap to reveal a yarmulke, the woman falsely assumed she was being asked to move for religious reasons and began screaming abut discrimination
- He then politely told her she did not have to move, but she kept yelling
- A flight attendant turned up and said that if they were fighting, the flight would be cancelled
Here are the words of the man directly (in English):
טוב גבירותיי ורבותיי כתבת חדשות 13 נריה קראוס סיפרה אתמול ש״חרדים רצו שהיא תעבור מקום בטיסה בגלל שהיא אישה״, היא צילמה את האדם הזה שהוא בעל משפחה ואדם מאד מוכר בברוקלין, הציוץ שלה הגיע למעל מליון צפיות וגם להחברים שלו שנדהמו ופנו אליי במשך כל היום, ״אין סיכוי, הבן אדם הזה מארח… pic.twitter.com/KkC4M1aYKP
— daniel amram – דניאל עמרם (@danielamram3) August 16, 2023
I agree with One Mile At A Time that to shame a woman for not changing seats or to shout at her and claim that her unwillingness to switch seats will delay the flight is absurd and beyond basic human dignity. I’ve written about these sorts of incident before…there are certain sects of Judaism in which males believe they cannot sit next to female passengers (unless she is a spouse or sibling). This is called Shomer negiah.
My fist instinct was to side with Ms. Kraus here because of a follow-up video she posted in which a flight attendant appears to apologize to her and back up her account of what occurred onboard:
בואו נשים סוף להתרת הדם והשקרים. הנה קטע של שיחה על המטוס עם דייל שנכח באירוע. הוא שאל מה שלומי וביקש להתנצל. והנה הוא מספר כאן הכל. והכל ברור. כל מה שאמרתי אמת. כל היתר – שקרים. פשוט תצפו בעובדות לנגד עיניכם. pic.twitter.com/qnVfIbg4uP
— נריה קראוס Neria Kraus (@NeriaKraus) August 16, 2023
But I am simply not sure…
A viral story shaming a United flight attendant for making a female passenger switch seats to accommodate an observant male passenger has been called into question. That male passenger in question has now voiced his side, which represents a very different account of what occured. But I want to think Kraus’s account is more accurate based upon a just-posted video of a conversation with a flight attendant in the galley, but I have my strong doubts.
If your religion requires certain seating arrangements on airlines, it is incumbent upon you to take care of it in advance and even book extra seats if necessary. But asking someone to swap and aisle for an aisle seat so that a party can be seated together does not strike me as unreasonable.