Friday 14 August 2020

KLM breached discrimination law by asking woman to move for Orthodox Jewish man


Dutch flag carrier KLM has been found to have discriminated against a woman by forcing her to change seats because a man refused to sit beside her for religious reasons.

The woman, who was traveling with her husband SP MP Ronald van Raak, was assigned a seat on the flight to New York next to an Orthodox Jewish man who said his faith forbade him to sit next to a woman. The man was traveling with other orthodox Jews who also refused to sit next to her.

‘The men would not take their seats which delayed the flights, and the atmosphere became grim,’ Van Raak wrote in a column on the SP website at the time. The couple were then asked to move, which they did.

The human rights watchdog College voor de rechten van de Mens ruled that KLM should have called out the man’s behaviour instead of appealing to the couple to move, despite the pressure on staff to make the flight leave on time. This constituted discrimination on the basis of sex, the College said.

‘It is a matter of public interest that women should be confident they will not be discriminated against on a KLM flight,’ Van Raak told press agency ANP. He also said he hoped ‘procedures would be adapted’. KLM maintained throughout that the crew behaved ‘proportionally’ by trying to come up with a solution which would cause minimum disruption.

In 2018 Israeli airline El Al said it would ‘immediately’ remove any person from a flight who won’t sit next to another passenger following outrage after four ultra-Orthodox men refused to take their assigned seats because they were next to women.

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