American Airlines fined for not providing Jewish passengers kosher food

Two Orthodox passengers suffered “emotional damages” for being forced to fast on their flights. 

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A Brazilian court has ordered American Airlines to pay compensation to two passengers after failing to provide them with kosher food on their flights.

In one incident, the plaintiff fasted some ten hours on a flight from New York to São Paulo after not receiving the special meal he had pre-requested. Orthodox Jews only eat food that is under the supervision of a religious kashruth supervisor. He was awarded almost $1,100.

In the other incident, the plaintiff received no food both when she traveled from Madrid to Philadelphia and then from Chicago to London. This forced her to go without food for about nine hours in total. Because the failure occurred on two flights, she was awarded almost $1,800.

In the first case, a lower court had dismissed the claim, but a higher court called the 23rd Chamber of Civil Court of the São Paulo Court of Justice unanimously reversed the decision.

“There is no formal record of the delivery of said food to the plaintiff, a measure that was incumbent on the airline, mainly due to the quality-of-service provisions it boasts,” wrote Judge José Marcos Marrone for the panel. “Since the defendant was unable to refute the plaintiff’s allegations, it must be considered the failure to provide services attributed to it in the initial petition.”

In the second case, American Airlines had appealed the lower court’s decision for the plaintiff and the higher court upheld the ruling.

“Taking into account the circumstances of the specific case, the degree of guilt of the defendant, the serious inconveniences borne by the plaintiff, the economic means of the offender and the victim, the fact that the aforementioned failure happened twice in a short space of time … the indemnity of ten thousand reals, that is, R$5 thousand for each occurrence, is fair,” Marrone wrote.

The fines were ordered due to the “emotional damages” caused by having a fast imposed on the victims “while all the other passengers ate normally,” he wrote.

American Airlines’ failure seems particularly surprising on the flights originating within the United States, where kosher, catered food is easy to obtain in big cities such as New York and Chicago, which have large Orthodox populations.