An El Al flight from JFK to Tel-Aviv was delayed on the eve of Rosh Hashanah after ultra-Orthodox passengers refused to sit next to women. One passenger described the whole experience as "an 11 hour ordeal," and another tells ynetnews.com that the plane was prevented from taking off because "people stood in the aisles and refused to go forward."
"Although everyone had tickets with seat numbers that they purchased in advance, they asked us to trade seats with them, and even offered to pay money, since they cannot sit next to a woman," another passenger explains. "It was obvious that the plane won't take off as long as they keep standing in the aisles."
After the pilot pleaded with everyone to take their seats if only for takeoff, the plane finally departed Wednesday morning. But as soon as it was in the air, many of the passengers quickly stood in the aisle, in order to preserve several feet of sin-space between them and the opposite sex. One female passenger on the flight tells ynetnews.com, "I ended up sitting next to a haredi man who jumped out of his seat the moment we had finished taking off and proceeded to stand in the aisle."
The aisle was reportedly crowded with men praying throughout the duration of the flight, making it extremely difficult for other passengers to access the restrooms and preventing flight attendants from distributing refreshments. "I went to the bathroom and it was a mission impossible, the noise was endless," another shellshocked passenger recalls.
El Al issued this statement in the wake of the incident: "El Al does everything it can to give its passengers the best possible service year-round. These days bring with them a peak in air traffic to Israel, and our crews on the ground and in the air are doing the best they can to address the needs and requests of all our travelers while trying not to fall behind schedule.
"The company will examine the complaints and if some passengers are found to have acted out of line the company will examine its future steps."
What's really frustrating is that all of this could have been avoided if the airline had just distributed large plastic bags: