Michigan couple sues airline for discrimination after getting kicked off flight

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — A Michigan couple is suing American Airlines for discrimination after being removed from a flight because the airline said the Orthodox Jewish couple smelled bad.

Yehuda Yosef Adler, Jennie Adler and their then-19-month old daughter were kicked off a Jan. 23, 2019, flight from Miami to Detroit by a gate agent. The agent said he knew people of their race and religion, Orthodox Jews, only showered once a week, according to the lawsuit filed Jan. 28 in Texas, which is where the airline is headquartered.

American issued a statement Thursday reiterating that it removed the Southfield family after passengers and crew members complained about Yehuda Adler's odor, the Detroit Free Press reported.

“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,” the statement said. “None of the decisions made by our team in handling this sensitive situation were based on the Adler’s (sic) religion.”

Yehuda Adler was subjected to humiliation by the airline right after he stepped on the plane, according to the suit. Adler asked a stewardess for headphones, saying he was given some on a previous flight. But the pilot, who was nearby, responded to him rudely, saying, “I wasn’t on that plane and we don’t offer anything complimentary.”

Shortly after sitting down, the gate agent told the Adlers that there was an emergency and then asked them to get off the plane, according to the lawsuit. They were told it was because of body odor and at the instruction of the pilot.

The couple contends that they had showered that morning and were being defamed by the airline.

The day of the incident, Yehuda Adler wore a yarmulke and Jennie Adler wore a shaytel, a wig worn by some married Orthodox Jewish women. They allege that the airline treated them differently because of their religious beliefs.

The couple is seeking punitive damages. A scheduling conference on the matter is set for May 29.