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American Airlines Sued Over Passenger Expulsion

Flight Attendant Disrespected Religious Beliefs, Says Suit, and Expelled Them for Non-Compliance

A Brooklyn, New York couple has filed suit with the airline over their reported expulsion from the plane, when the couple refused to place a bag containing their prayer shawl underseat or in the bin, according to the details on file. 

Roberto and Elana Birman were heading home from Miami last August, when the elderly Jewish Orthodox couple had a run-in with the American Airlines flight attendant responsible for their seating section. The flight attendant, for unspecified reasons, removed their clear plastic Tallit bag from the overhead compartment and told the couple it could only be appropriately placed underseat as a small carry-on item. The bag, containing their sacred texts and prayer shawl, is something they are honor-bound under the tenets their faith to respect and care for. Part of that reverence, as is common, is to refrain from placing the objects on the ground or underfoot, but the suit says the flight attendant was less than disinterested.

The suit alleges the attendant said it did not matter what the item was, it would go under the seat or the couple would not remain on the flight. Roberto described her behavior as outlandish, saying "she was screaming at me and pointing her finger" in full view of everyone on the cabin.

The fracas saw the pilot leave the cockpit without making contact, but soon, with the couple's choosing to hold their beliefs in greater regard than American Airlines cabin policy, they were escorted off the plane by ground crew. 

The lawsuit seeks damages for the ensuing series of events, as their checked luggage and necessary medications were not removed from the flight, and they were not given any assistance from the airline in securing food or a place to stay, while being forced to take a taxi to a friend's home as the hurricane arrived. Whether or not the couple will see victory in their suit remains to be seen, but it is an interesting footnote in what seems to be an increased number of similar customer service incidents in the post-pandemic airline industry. 



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