A Jewish couple is suing American Airlines for discrimination after they were kicked off a flight last year for allegedly having “body odour”.
Yehuda Yosef Adler, Jennie Adler and their then-19-month old daughter were flying from Miami to Detroit on 23 January 2019 when a flight attendant said there was an emergency and they would have to get off the flight, according to the lawsuit.
Once off the plane, they were allegedly told they had been removed because of their body odour at the request of the pilot, who had already had an altercation with Mr Adler when he requested headphones.
“We don’t offer anything complimentary,” the pilot replied in a “nasty” fashion, according to the lawsuit.
The couple claimed to have both showered that morning.
“Plaintiffs were distraught and even though embarrassing, approached persons in the same area of the boarding gate asking them if they could detect unpleasant body odour from any of the Adler family and each and every person (more than 20 people) answered in the negative,” says the lawsuit.
At the time, Mr Adler filmed an exchange with a gate agent, who said: “You told me for religious reasons you don’t shower? Is that what you said?”
Mr Adler, off camera, can be heard responding: “No, I didn’t! I shower every day,” Mrs Adler agrees, “We’ve all had showers today.”
Mr Adler adds: “I said you kicked me off because of religious reasons.”
“The Adlers are being pressured to see their race and religion as inferior to that of whites, dirty and unwelcome,” says the lawsuit.
Assurances that the couple’s luggage would be removed from the flight proved false, and the family were left without their baby’s car seat and pushchair and most of their other belongings.
American Airlines put them up in a hotel for the night and rebooked them on a flight for the next day.
The Adlers claim that American Airlines has defamed them by continuing to state that they were removed from the flight because they smelt.
The lawsuit also states that they have suffered from “emotional distress”, “damage to personal and professional reputations”, “loss of appetite”, “insomnia”, and “fear associated with airports and flying”.
The lawsuit was filed on 28 January in a federal court in Texas and a scheduling conference is slated for 29 May.
They are seeking punitive damages to deter future discrimination.
American Airlines said in a statement: “The Adler family was asked to deplane after multiple passengers and our crew members complained about Mr Adler’s body odour.
“The decision was made out of concern for the comfort of our other passengers.
“Our team members took care of the family and provided hotel accommodations and meals, and rebooked them on a flight to Detroit the next morning.
“None of the decisions made by our team in handling this sensitive situation were based on the Adler’s religion.”
According to American Airlines’ company handbook, staff are allowed to remove passengers from a flight if they have an “offensive odour not caused by disability or illness”.