Newark, NJ - Woman Demands Apology From Airline After Ultra-Orthodox Man Refuses To Sit Next To Her (video)
Newark, NJ - A flight from Newark to Toronto was delayed early Monday morning after an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man refused to sit in his assigned seat because his seatmate was a woman. Now, Christine Flynn, 31, is demanding an apology from Porter Airlines for how the situation was handled.
According to Flynn, she had just strapped into her seat when the ultra-Orthodox man came down the aisle and refused to make eye contact with or speak to her. “He turned to the gentleman across the aisle and said, ‘Change,’” Flynn recounted. The female passenger said initially she did not understand why the man was pointing towards her, but speaking to the man across the aisle. She then realized the haredi man did not want to sit next to her because she was a woman.
“He could have made a plan, he could have put in a request,” Flynn told the CBC (http://bit.ly/1VNrgOY ). “When someone doesn’t look at you, and when someone doesn’t acknowledge you as person because of your gender, you’re a lot less willing to be accommodating. Leaving it to the last minute and expecting me to move is appalling. He’s expecting me to fall in to that archetypical feminine role and acquiesce.”
The man across from Flynn declined to change his seat, so the ultra-Orthodox man asked the man behind him to switch seats. A flight attendant finally intervened and asked what the problem was.
“I said, ‘This man is refusing to sit next to me because I am a woman,’ Flynn said. “At that point, another man behind ... offered to switch with me and the airline attendant said, ‘Would you be willing to move? and I said, ‘Absolutely not. This is ridiculous,’” she said. “I was without words.”
The haredi man was eventually seated next to another male traveler and the flight took off. But Flynn said she’s angry she was asked to move and frustrated that her fellow passengers were even willing to accommodate the ultra-Orthodox man.
“I have a problem with that. He [the flight attendant] probably, maybe, didn’t realize that asking a woman to move because the fact she had a uterus made the man next to her uncomfortable ... I don’t think he even would have put it together that that’s kind of insulting and maybe even discriminatory,” she said. “If someone had refused to sit next to me because I was gay and maybe they were some kind of old-school religion that doesn’t like gay people, no one would have switched with him. It would have been off the table.”
Flynn admitted there may have been a language barrier, noting the man’s English “wasn’t terrific,” and said she may have changed seats if had he spoken to her directly and asked her nicely to switch seats. But the man’s refusal to make eye contact with her deeply offended her.
A spokesman for Porter Airlines, Brad Cicero, defended the airline’s handling of the situation saying the flight attendant “did his best to manage the situation as efficiently and reasonably as possible in order to avoid an unnecessary delay.”
He said there were very few seats available to place the man because the flight was almost full. “Only a few seats were available, and no row was entirely unoccupied,” Cicero said. “The flight attendant politely asked Ms. Flynn if she would be able to change seats. She declined, so the flight attendant began asking other passengers if they would be willing to assist. Someone did agree to move and it was not perceived to be a particularly contentious situation by the flight attendant.”
Flynn said she is still holding out for an apology from the airline. “I’d like an apology,” she said. “There really should be a policy around this. If people are going to get on flights and demand that they sit next to someone of the same sex, there should be an area where they can go. I should not have to move because someone has a problem with my uterus.”
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