Orthodox passengers sue El Al over ill-fated November flight

Orthodox passengers from an El Al flight that went awry are suing the airline. 

By David Isaac, World Israel News

A November El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv that made headlines when it was diverted to Athens to allow observant Jews to disembark in time for the Sabbath is again in the news. Fifty-two passengers are filing a class-action suit against the airline.

The passengers are suing for $14,000 for each passenger affected and demand a statement by El Al retracting false accusations that orthodox passengers became violent on the plane.

Their suit says that El Al acted with “negligent and irresponsible behavior,” starting with the late arrival of the stewards to the flight and continuing with the promise of the airline that they would arrive at their destination in time for the Sabbath. Although they asked to be let off the plane before it left the ground,  they weren’t allowed to do so, they say.

Their suit claims that El Al assured them that they would land in Israel in time for the Sabbath.

Evidently, the passengers were proven right and when it became clear the flight would not make it in time, the plane landed in Athens to allow the 180 religious passengers to disembark. They were placed in a hotel near the airport with accommodations for only 50, forcing some to share rooms. They say they were left without their luggage or extra clothing, or even enough kosher food, according to the suit.

They continued on to Israel on Saturday night after the Sabbath had ended. Non-religious passengers had been transferred earlier to an Israir flight for the remainder of the journey as El Al doesn’t fly on the Sabbath.

Attorney Asher Rothbaum, who represents the passengers, said that “It was clear after 13 minutes from the moment of takeoff that the time of landing in Tel Aviv changed to after the start of the Sabbath. El Al could have, at least to minimize the damage to the passengers, returned the plane to New York.”

On Nov. 15, the flight departed New York’s John F. Kennedy airport five hours late due to bad weather.

As an apology, El Al had given each of the passengers a free round-trip ticket to any destination in Europe. Passengers who are bringing the suit say it wasn’t enough.