September 26, 2021

18 Orthodox Jewish girls who were barred from boarding a Delta flight were booted off another flight the next day

Joshua Zitser August 8, 2021

  • Insider previously reported the Orthodox Jewish girls were barred from boarding a flight Thursday.
  • The next day, the girls were ordered off a second Delta flight for trying to switch seats.

A group of Orthodox Jewish girls who were barred from boarding a flight from Amsterdam to New York on Thursday evening was kicked off another flight the next day, according to their rabbi.

The 18 teenagers, part of a group that had been visiting religious sites in Ukraine, were initially disallowed from traveling on a flight home because of a dispute over COVID-19 protocols on the KLM-operated leg of their journey from Kyiv to Amsterdam, Insider previously reported.

Rabbi Yisroel Kahan told Insider that a day later, Delta Air Lines kicked off the same girls for swapping seats on a Friday-morning flight.

Kahan went on to level accusations of antisemitism with regard to Delta’s decisions. “With antisemitism, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck,” he said.-

After the girls were barred from boarding the flight Thursday evening, Kahan said, the group slept on benches at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport while he and a chaperone tried to arrange their journeys home.

The Orthodox Jewish teenagers slept at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport.
The Orthodox Jewish teens slept at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport while their rabbi tried to arrange another flight. Yisroel Kahan

Kahan said he and another rabbi started calling New York lawmakers, including Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, to reach out to Delta to remedy the situation.

Schumer was thought to have stepped in, the rabbi said, and Delta executives personally called the parents of the stranded girls and arranged a Delta flight from Amsterdam to New York for Friday morning.

Schumer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Friday morning the girls boarded the Delta flight to New York from Amsterdam, but Kahan said that soon they were asked to leave. “Ten minutes later, the phone rings,” he said. “They’re being taken off the plane.”

The rabbi says one of the girls was asked to swap seats by a mother who wanted to be seated next to her son. “The minute they made the swap, a stewardess made a beeline to the girl and said, ‘You’re misbehaving, you’re kind of on thin ice, to begin with, get off the plane,'” he said.

A video seen by Insider appears to show a woman confirming that she asked to switch seats and that this led to the girls being asked to leave the flight.

Kahan said the girl returned to her assigned seat but the entire group of teenagers was still told to leave the flight. He said the woman was allowed to remain on the plane because it was her “first transgression.”

The rabbi said that he hated to “throw that card out there” but nevertheless suspected antisemitism.

“Either you’re telling me that you know that each and everyone one of them was violating rules on both flights,” Kahan added. “Or you’re telling me that you banned the entire group, a group of one ethnicity, for this misbehavior.”

The girls were removed and booked onto a Delta flight for later that day but declined to travel on it because it would have involved returning to their homes after the start of Shabbat – the Jewish day of rest when observant Jews are not allowed to travel by car or plane.

Instead, they spent the night in Antwerp, Belgium, and traveled home to New York with United Airlines on Sunday morning.

In an email to Insider, a Delta representative said: “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.