American Airlines agent said Orthodox Jews only bathe once a week, lawsuit claims

A Michigan couple is suing American Airlines for discrimination after the airline claimed they smelled bad and kicked them off a flight last year.

Yehuda Yosef Adler, Jennie Adler and their then-19-month old daughter were booted from a Jan. 23, 2019, flight from Miami to Detroit by a gate agent who said he knew people of their race and religion, Orthodox Jews, only took baths once a week, according to the lawsuit filed Jan. 28 in federal court in Texas.

The Texas-based airline issued a statement Thursday reiterating their claim that several passengers and crew members had complained of a body odor.

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“Our team members took care of the family and provided hotel accommodations and meals, and rebooked them on a flight to Detroit the next morning,” the statement said. “None of the decisions made by our team in handling this sensitive situation were based on the Adler’s (sic) religion.”

The humiliation by the airline started as soon as Yehuda, or “Yossi,” Adler stepped on the plane, according to the lawsuit.

A Michigan couple is suing American Airlines alleging discrimination after they were removed from a flight last year because of body odor.

Adler asked a stewardess for headphones when he boarded plane, explaining the last plane he was on said he could ask, according to the lawsuit.  

The pilot, nearby, responded in a nasty fashion, according to the lawsuit, and said, “I wasn’t on that plane and we don’t offer anything complimentary.”

Minutes after sitting down, a gate agent informed the Adlers there was an emergency and asked them to deplane, according to the lawsuit. After, they were told it was due to body odor and at the instruction of the pilot.

The agent would not clarify which family member had the odor, according to the filing.

The Thursday statement from the airline said passengers and crew members were complaining about Mr. Adler.

The couple had showered that morning, according to the lawsuit.

“Plaintiffs were distraught and even though embarrassing, approached persons in the same area of the boarding gate asking them if they could detect unpleasant body odor from any of the Adler family and each and every person (more than 20 people) answered in the negative,” the lawsuit states.

Despite promises to unload their luggage, the Adlers say the plane took off with the baby’s car seat, their stroller, diapers and their other belongings.

Yehuda Adler wore a yarmulke and Jennie Adler wore a shaytel and long skirt the day of the incident, and it made them unequal in the eyes of the airline, they allege.

Sometimes spelled sheitel, a shaytel is a wig worn as a hair covering by some married Orthodox Jewish women.

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The couple says they’ve been defamed by American Airlines’ continued statements that they were removed because of their smell.

They’ve also continue to suffer emotional distress, damage to personal and professional reputations, loss of appetite, insomnia, and fear associated with airports and flying, according to the filing.

 “The Adlers are being pressured to see their race and religion as inferior to that of Whites, dirty and unwelcome,” according to the lawsuit.

The decision to remove the Adlers from the plane was made out of concern for the comfort of other passengers, according to the airline.

The Adlers are asking that punitive damages be awarded as determined by a jury to deter future discrimination.

A scheduling conference on the matter is slated for May 29.

The Adler family is from Southfield, Michigan, according to previous media reports.

Contact Darcie Moran at dmoran@gannett.com. 

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