“The stewardesses tried to convince (the Haredim), but to no avail,” one of the passengers said, adding that the pilot had come out of the cockpit and managed to convince several female passengers to move to different seats.
Once the plane entered Austrian airspace, it was asked to wait half an hour before landing, having arrived during the morning rush hour.
Austrian Airlines flight OS 860 was scheduled to depart at 6:15 am, but due to the Haredi men’s refusal to sit in their designated seats, the plane only took off at 6:53 am, causing some passengers to miss connecting flights from the Austrian capital.
One of the passengers missed a connecting fight to Zurich, and her taxi driver had to wait for four hours at the airport in Switzerland until she arrived on an alternative flight.
“The plane was full, and then one of the flight attendants started walking around hysterically. When we asked her what was wrong, she said some men were refusing to sit next to women,” the passenger recalled in a conversation with Ynet.
“There were several dozen Haredi men there who boarded the plane at the last moment and refused to sit next to women. The stewardesses tried to convince to sit down so we could leave on time, but to no avail. In the end, the captain was forced to come out of the cockpit and try to convince the group to sit down.
“It took a long time, and he eventually managed to convince several women to move. One of them was seated next to the emergency exit,” she added.
“It was a very annoying incident. The pilot is supposed to get ready for takeoff, not to deal with seating passengers. For how long will we allow such an unenlightened group to manipulate an entire plane and disrupt the rest of the passengers’ schedule? It’s time for the airlines to find a solution for this affair.”
The Haredi group was originally scheduled to fly to Vienna with Polish airline LOT, but the flight was cancelled and the passengers were moved to the Austrian Airlines plane at the last moment.
Austrian Airlines offered the following comment: “We regret any inconvenience which may have been caused to our passengers. The flight was delayed due to the boarding and seating of passengers of the LOT airline whose flight had been cancelled and who boarded the plane at the last moment. Since it was a large group of passengers, 26 people, the cabin crew did everything in its power to help the passengers as much as it could.”
Last week, El Al Airlines moved female passengers from their seats after four ultra-Orthodox men refused to sit next to them on a flight from John F Kennedy Airport in New York to Ben-Gurion Airport in Israel. The scene caused by the Haredi passengers delayed the flight by an hour and 15 minutes.
The incident sparked a wave of condemnation, including from the head of NICE Systems—a major Israeli tech firm specializing in software and advanced analytics—who publicly announced his company would no longer travel on El Al.
“At NICE we don’t do business with companies that discriminate against race, gender or religion,” CEO Barak Eilam wrote in a post on LinkedIn. “NICE will not fly El Al Israeli Airlines until they change their practice and actions discriminating against women.”
In response to Eilam’s criticism, El Al’s CEO Gonen Usishkin wrote in a statement to The Media Line that, “The post by the CEO of NICE was made hastily without checking the facts, and I made that clear to him when we spoke.
“The El Al personnel who handled the incident in question did so with due sensitivity,” the statement continued. “Anyone who flies with our airline can sense the values we built the company on: an egalitarian company that makes no distinctions between religion, race or sex.”
Usishkin stressed that he has ordered that stricter measures be implemented to avoid similar incidents.
“In the future, any passenger who refuses to sit next to another passenger will have be immediately removed from the flight,” he asserted.