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Orthodox Jewish couple removed from plane over body odor sues American Airlines

The couple was traveling with their 19-month-old daughter from Miami to Detroit.
Credit: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File

A year after being removed from a flight because of apparent body odor, an Orthodox Jewish couple is suing American Airlines for discrimination.

According to a lawsuit filed this week in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas in Houston, Yehuda Yosef and Jennie Adler and their 19-month-old daughter say they were discriminated against by a crew of an American Airlines flight because of their religion and ethnicity.

The couple and their daughter were taking a flight Jan. 23, 2019, from Miami to Detroit when the alleged incident happened. The couple said when they boarded the flight and asked an attendant for headphones, the pilot (who was allegedly nearby) told them "we don't offer anything complimentary."

The couple said the pilot's response was "so nasty and humiliating but Mr. Adler ignored it" while he and his family went to their seats. The complaint says the family was seated for about five minutes when they were approached by an American Airlines gate agent who said, "sir, there's an emergency and you must deplane..."

Once they were off the plane, the Adlers say the agent told them they had been removed from the plane because of body odor. The lawsuit says the agent told the family they had to leave the plane "at the instruction of the pilot and because they had extremely offensive body odor."

When the Adlers said they were shocked at the reason and that they had showered that morning, the lawsuit said the gate agent made a statement "that he knew that Orthodox Jew take baths once a week."

After that, the couple said they even asked more than 20 people in the terminal if they could detect a smell on the family. The Adlers said the people said no, according to the lawsuit.

Removed from a plane that was about to depart, the Adlers then requested their luggage be removed from the flight. However, according to the lawsuit, that plane already left with their bags, their daughter's car seat, stroller and diapers. 

The Adlers are now suing American Airlines and seeking punitive damages for civil rights violations, defamation, negligence and infliction of emotional distress. 

In a statement to 10News, American Airlines states that both passengers and crew on the plane had complained about the family's body odor.

"The Adler family was asked to deplane after multiple passengers and our crew members complained about Mr. Adler’s body odor. The decision was made out of concern for the comfort of our other passengers. Our team members took care of the family and provided hotel accommodations and meals, and rebooked them on a flight to Detroit the next morning. None of the decisions made by our team in handling this sensitive situation were based on the Adlers’ religion," the airline said.

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