Tuesday, 20 Apr 2021

EasyJet speak out after woman asked to give up seat for ultra-religious man

Budget airline easyJet has issued a statement after paying compensation to a female passenger who was asked to move seats on a flight from Tel Aviv to London – after two ultra-Orthodox Jewish men refused to sit next to her.

Melanie Wolfson paid extra for an aisle seat on the flight in October 2019. She says she was “insulted and humiliated” when ultra-Orthodox Jewish man man and his son, who were sitting in the same row, asked her to switch seats with a man in another row.

“I would not have had any problem whatsoever switching seats if it were to allow members of a family or friends to sit together,” she told Haaretz, “but the fact that I was being asked to do this because I was a woman was why I refused.”

Two months later, when Wolfson was on another flight, the same thing happened again.

Wolfson, 38, sued easyJet for 66,438 shekels compensation (around £15,000 at the time) compensation – the case was raised on her behalf by the Israel Religious Action Centre (IRAC), which won a similar case against Israeli airline El Al in 2017.

Today, in a statement that was agreed with Wolfson, easyJet said its did not believe female passengers should be asked to move seats “simply based on their gender” and promised to introduce additional crew training and guidelines to prevent a repeat incident.

The statement in full reads: “easyJet is aware of the issue where some male passengers say they are uncomfortable sitting next to women, who are not in their immediate family, due to their religious beliefs and as a result request that a crew member ask female passengers to move seats.

“easyJet does not believe that female passengers should be asked to move seats simply based on their gender. The airline has a policy to politely inform any customer who raises this request that this will not be accommodated.

"Unfortunately, according to Melanie Wolfson this policy was not followed in her case."

The statement continues: “easyJet is committed to tackling any discrimination on flights. Therefore, we listened when Ms Wolfson told us about incidents of gender discrimination on our flights when she was asked to move simply because she is female.

"We take this very seriously and in addition to compensating Ms Wolfson for her experience, easyJet intends to implement additional crew training and renew our crew guidelines in order to prevent these incidents from happening in the future.

“At easyJet we believe that flying should be a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone, regardless of their gender and we are committed to making sure this is the case going forward.”

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