We have previously discussed the practice on some airlines to ask women move to accommodate ultra-Orthodox Jewish men who refuse to sit next to women. Now, Melanie Wolfson, 38, a British-Israeli woman, is suing EasyJet after she was asked her to change seats on a flight from Tel Aviv to London.
Wolfson is asking for 66,438 shekels compensation in a lawsuit filed by the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC). She wants the airline to bar future demands or requests for women to move. She noted that she paid extra for an aisle seat on her flight last October, but an ultra-Orthodox man and his son were sitting in the row when she arrived. According to Haaretz, she claims that the request was insulting and humiliating.
What is interesting about the lawsuit is that Wolfson was not told to switch, was offered the incentive of a free hot drink, and ultimately agreed to move. However, two months later, she was again asked to move for the same reason. She then refused but two other female passengers agreed to move.
I am still unsure how a request can be the basis for a legal action. Nevertheless, I do not believe that this is an appropriate basis for flight staff to ask for women to move. We have discussed cases where women feel enormous pressure to move because of a refusal of these men to take their seats. The delaying of the flights increases the tension and embarrassment for these women. In my view, the men should be asked to leave the plane if they are delaying the flight. If they want to ensure that no women sit next to them, they can pay extra to have the entire row.
The question is whether the airline should be subject to legal penalties or public pressure. The only reason that I do not rule out such lawsuit entirely is that there is still the element of public embarrassment. Moreover, how would we react if EasyJet asked an African American to move because someone did not want to sit next to a person of a different race or Jewish person because someone is anti-Semitic? An important distinction can be drawn on this being an article of faith and that other religions like Islam separate people of different genders under other circumstances. Yet, these men are following religious beliefs that many women and men view as sexist and offensive. For women to be pressured to move (as a flight is delayed) is in my view unreasonable.