A Jewish man claimed that he was removed from a United Airlines flight Thursday because the crew of the plane had anti-Semitic bias.
The airline passenger, who wished to remain anonymous, told Jewish news outlet Hamodia that he, along with his brother and two of his friends boarded a flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Brussels, Belgium, at 6:55 p.m. EDT Thursday, when he realized that he had been assigned a seat at the back of the cabin, while the rest of his companions had been given seats in the front. Noticing that there was an empty seat beside his friends, the passenger — identified by Hamodia as an orthodox Jew — asked one of the crew members if he could be relocated to that seat. After discussing with the head flight attendant – a man identified by the passenger only as Jason – the crew member told him that he could not take that seat as it was an Economy Plus seat.
After boarding was closed, the man requested the attendant to be allowed to sit in one of the other empty seats next to his friends, which were not part of Economy Plus. He was allowed to do so but as he was about to settle down on his new seat, Jason approached him. “I told you, you need to sit in your own seat, you’re not allowed to sit here,” Jason said.
The man said that Jason’s attitude was “full of hatred, with fire in his eyes.” As he returned to his original seat, the man alleged that Jason did not reply when he asked him, “What did I do so bad to deserve such treatment.”
Ten minutes later, an airport staff boarded the flight and told the man that he would have to exit the plane. He claimed that he received no explanation from the flight crew about his sudden removal. “I asked why, and she said, ‘We will tell you once you get off.’ I did not protest at all. As we were passing toward the front of the plane, where my friends were, one them asked, ‘Why are you taking him off?’ Her answer was, ‘If you want, you can get off the flight, too,’” he said.
Meanwhile, after he had exited the aircraft, the captain announced that there would be a delay because one of the passengers was misbehaving. “Though I was off the plane by then, this was very embarrassing for my brother and our friends,” he said.
Outraged at how the man had been treated, his brother went to the back of the plane and asked the passengers if the man had been misbehaving. All of them said there had been no misbehavior. Upon questioning Jason, the brother was told that the prior to boarding, the man was seen banging the counter at the airport and insisting on having his seat changed. He was also heard saying, “Once the flight is closed, I will do what I want,” Jason claimed.
The man said that there was no truth to what the flight attendants claimed had happened. “In fact, they have cameras in the airport,” he said. “Let them check out the cameras and show where I was banging. That never happened. I never banged and never raised my voice at anyone.”
After leaving the plane, he learned that he had been kicked off the plane on the captain’s orders. He was offered alternate flights to his hometown Antwerp, Belgium, the next day and on Saturday. The man claimed that staff at the counter made fun of him. “Make him go through Brazil,” one of the female employees allegedly said.
He was finally assigned a connecting flight to Brussels on Thursday night. After reaching Brussels, he discovered that his luggage was still in Newark, even though he was assured that it would be transported before his flight landed. He had to wait till Sunday afternoon to get his luggage.
The man said he had a fairly good idea as to why he received ill treatment from United Airlines. “You know, every time I hear of stories about Jews being kicked off planes for various reasons, I am skeptical when they say it is anti-Semitism,” he said. “But now that I have gone through this, I can’t see any other reasons why they would have acted this way toward me. Because I didn’t do anything wrong at all.”
A United spokesperson said that the company “takes claims of discrimination seriously. We will reach out to this customer and to our crew members to fully understand what happened.”