Haredi Jews vs. EasyJet: Rowdy ultra-Orthodox wedding party causes ‘bedlam’ on-board
The 2.55 p.m. flight on Monday immediately got off to a bad start, when members of the sect, who were part of a wedding party that bought up half the seats, refused to occupy their places before take-off.
“A group of around 10 ultra-Orthodox men caused absolute bedlam on the flight. It was infuriating to witness both for passengers and for the stewards, who tried but failed to control them,” a fellow passenger told The Jewish Chronicle, a London newspaper. “At one point there were about 10 men in black hats blocking the aisles and refusing to sit down. It was impossible for the stewards to get these people to listen to them.”
Passengers told the newspaper that even after the mini-crisis was resolved – with women voluntarily giving up the seats, to be reseated by stewards – the men, whose sect has hundreds of strict rules governing every aspect of their daily routine, refused to even thank the staff or apologize to the passengers.
Reaching cruising height did not bring peace.
“They were constantly ringing the bell for the steward. I’ve never heard it go off so many times. It was dinging constantly and to the point, it was really intrusive if you are trying to read or something,” a passenger told the Jewish News, another UK newspaper. “I overheard the steward say, ‘I’ve only got one pair of hands’. They were just really stressing the staff out. One steward said he’d been doing the route for 11 years and it was the worst flight he had ever experienced.”
Yet the Haredis, who constitute about one million of Israel’s population, were not happy even with non-stop pampering.
“One male plugged his phone into the control panel above the stewards’ area,” – and immediately triggered the emergency lights, one passenger told the Jewish News. “Some of the stewards looked as though they were really quite panicked. One cabin crew member eventually went over to the man and demanded he take his mobile and said he was responsible for a possible compromise of safety.”
As the plane landed in the UK there was finally help – even if it came too late.
“When we arrived, the captain said: ‘Please stay in your seats. We are waiting for the police’. It went deadly quiet and I think people were shocked. One policeman then came on the plane, stood by the door and oversaw everybody leaving – and there were two more officers standing on the tarmac,” a passenger told The Jewish News.
The Haredi men were escorted off the plane, but no one was arrested. EasyJet has confirmed the incident, reserving particular scorn for the owner of the 'dead' phone and his “foolish attempt to charge it.”
Tension with ultra-Orthodox Jews on flights are reported at least several times a year, though incidents usually concern individual behavior – such as men who wrap themselves in plastic to avoid breaking a rule that forbids Haredis from flying over cemeteries – but not an entire group.