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Orthodox travelers seeking answers after American Airlines removes them from flight without explanation


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When an American Airlines crew member asked 17-year-old Reuvi Scheinerman to accompany her to the front of the plane not long before takeoff, he thought he was getting an upgrade.

Instead, Scheinerman was removed from the May 5 flight fromCleveland to Washington, D.C., as was another Orthodox Jewish young man Scheinerman says he had never met.

He soon pieced together what happened: the other passenger, 21-year-old Yehudah Roffman, had been removed at the pilot’s request for repeatedly expressing concern about the safety of the aircraft; because the two were both dressed similarly in yeshiva attire with black hats, the flight crew assumed they were traveling together.

Motti Scheinerman, Reuvi’s father, says the flight attendant told his son, “You know what you did.”

Three days later, the Scheinermans still have not received an explanation.

“To me, it’s clearly racial profiling,” Motti Scheinerman said in an interview. “This never should have happened.”

American Airlines did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The incident is one of a few controversies involving Orthodox Jewish travelers in recent years. Three Orthodox passengers were ordered off a JetBlue flight last New Year’s Eve after they changed seats. In 2022, Lufthansa paid a $2.7 million settlement to 100 Orthodox passengers who were removed from a flight after a few objected to a mask requirement. 

Jewish law’s restrictions against extramarital physical contact with the opposite sex has occasionally caused issues for Orthodox travelers. But the case of Scheinerman and Roffman seemed to emerge from Roffman’s insistence that the pilot be aware of a dent he thought he spotted on the plane’s tail while awaiting for the flight to take off.

(Roffman could not be reached for comment.)

According to Dan’sDeals, a travel website that first reported the story, after asking the flight attendants to inform the pilot about the tail, Roffman saw the pilot speaking to the gate agent at the front of the plane. He approached and asked the pilot whether he had checked to ensure that the tail was safe. After the pilot told him three times to return to his seat, Roffman finally returned.

Five minutes later, Roffman told Dan’sDeals, a flight attendant came to his seat and asked him to take his bags and exit the plane. Then the crew pointed out Scheinerman, who was seated more than a dozen rows behind Roffman, and escorted him off, despite not having had any interaction with the crew prior.

Motti Scheinerman said he had taught his son to avoid drawing attention to himself. But he thought Roffman’s insistence in the situation was appropriate.

“You know, with all these crazy stories about windows being blown out on airplanes,,” he said, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”

Motti Scheinerman said American Airlines offered to book them on the first flight the next day. Roffman had already decided to rent a car and volunteered to drive Scheinerman to his yeshiva in Connecticut. (Roffman’s is in New York.) After piecing together that Scheinerman’s mother knew the Roffman family from her work as an administrator at a Cleveland-area Jewish school, Reuvi’s parents okayed the carpool. 

The Scheinermans are now weighing legal action.

Motti Scheinerman said a customer service representative he had spoken to from the airline was “evasive,” but said the company was investigating.

“I’m not the sole person that this happens to,” Scheinerman said. “This is not an isolated incident. The fact that this is public is because I deemed it worth it to go public. I could’ve kept my mouth shut and it would’ve been swept under the rug.”

The post Orthodox travelers seeking answers after American Airlines removes them from flight without explanation appeared first on The Forward.