New York – Passengers aboard Israel’s national airline who prefer not to sit next to a member of the opposite sex will no longer be able to ask flight attendants to reseat another passenger in order to accommodate their religious preferences.
That ruling came on Wednesday after a Jerusalem court decided in favor of 83 year old Holocaust survivor Renee Rabinowitz who sued El Al for discrimination after being asked to change seats to accommodate a male passenger in December 2015.
As previously reported on VIN News (http://bit.ly/2sVLfp5), Rabinowitz was traveling in business class from Newark to Tel Aviv when a Chasidic-looking man told flight attendants that he could not sit next to Rabinowitz because of his religious beliefs.
Flight attendants asked Rabinowitz if she would mind changing her seat and while she complied with the request, Rabinowitz said she felt slighted and filed suit against the airline in February 2016.
The New York Times (http://nyti.ms/2sVpSUw) reported that lawyers for El Al argued that the seating requests are accommodated whenever possible and that no discrimination existed because airline reseating policies apply equally to men and women.
El Al’s attorneys also tried to demonstrate that Israeli courts have supported religious sensitivities in other cases, but the judge ruled in favor of Rabinowitz.
While Rabinowitz had originally asked for a judgment of 50,000 NIS, she agreed to an award of 6,500 NIS proposed by the judge. El Al will be drafting new written policies within the next 45 days informing their cabin crew that gender-based requests to move another passenger are strictly forbidden and will be implementing training protocols to help flight attendants deal with similar situations.
Rabinowitz, who lives in an assisted living facility in Jerusalem, said that she was extremely happy with the verdict.
“I’m thrilled because the judge understood the issue,” said Rabinowitz. “She realized it is not a question of money. They awarded a very small sum. She realized it’s a matter of El Al changing its policy which they have been ordered to do.”