Orthodox Jewish passenger group removed from Delta, KLM flights

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

More than a dozen Orthodox Jewish passengers were prevented from taking flights back home to New York on KLM and Delta Air Lines, triggering media headlines and social media scrutiny.

Both airlines said the travelers did not comply with crew instructions, but a New York rabbi suggested the passengers were removed because of bias.

Part of a group that flew Dutch airline KLM from Kiev to Amsterdam Aug. 5 were not allowed to travel back to New York on KLM, with the airline saying the passengers “did not adhere to crew instructions and showed unruly behavior on board.”

That came after KLM had cautioned the group after their first flight from New York to Amsterdam July 20 for refusal to follow crew instructions.

That left 18 trying to get back to New York after alleged mask violations, out of a group of more than 50 on the trip to Europe, according to Rabbi Yisroel Kahan in comments on Twitter and an interview posted on YouTube. Kahan, who said he was in contact with the group, said the KLM crew told some to adjust their masks, among other issues.

Delta, a joint venture partner with KLM, advised the passengers that they would be allowed to travel on Delta if they followed crew instructions.

The group was rebooked on a Delta flight to New York, but were removed from that flight after switching seats, according to Kahan.

Kahan in the interview on YouTube called it “very suspicious” that the 18 were not allowed to take the KLM and Delta flights.

“We’re in a world now, a woke society where we’re bending over backwards to accommodate everybody and anybody except Orthodox Jews,” Kahan said.

Delta issued a statement saying: “We apologize to our customers on Delta Flight 47, Amsterdam to New York-JFK, who were delayed and inconvenienced to remove a group of passengers who refused to comply with crew instructions. The flight departed approximately two hours after its originally scheduled time.”

Kahan tweeted that the group eventually flew back to New York on Sunday and thanked several elected officials for their assistance.

The incident comes amid a spike of investigations by the Federal Aviation Administration into unruly passenger incidents on flights under its “zero tolerance” policy this year. Most of the reports of unruly passengers on airlines are related to mask requirements.