A Queens couple from New York is alleging that they were unfairly removed from a JetBlue flight bound for New York due to their Orthodox Jewish faith, resulting in a $40 million lawsuit against the airline. Michael Nektalov, 42, his wife Miryem Yushanayev, and their five children were returning from an Aruba vacation on Feb. 4, 2021, when they and another Jewish family were asked to leave the plane before takeoff. The couple claim that their attire and the fact that they were speaking Hebrew led to their removal from the flight.
According to court papers filed in Brooklyn Federal Court, the couple was dressed in accordance with the customs of their religious community, with Miryem wearing a head covering and Michael sporting a long beard and yarmulke. The family also spoke in Hebrew at times, which they believe drew unwanted attention from JetBlue employees. The couple detailed in court papers that they noticed disdainful and dirty looks from the airline staff prior to being asked to leave the plane.
The couple alleges that just before takeoff, the plane taxied back to the gate and their troubles began. They claim that a flight attendant accused Miryem of not wearing her face mask properly and then marked her seat, leading to her removal from the plane. Another Jewish family was also asked to leave. The families asked why they were being removed from the flight, and a JetBlue employee allegedly threatened to deplane the entire aircraft if they did not comply.
The Nektalovs are suing JetBlue for $40 million, claiming discrimination based on their religion. In response, a spokesman for JetBlue stated that the company had not yet reviewed the lawsuit, but emphasized that they do not tolerate any form of discrimination and take such claims seriously. The airline spokesperson also mentioned their commitment to fully understanding the facts of the event, indicating that JetBlue will investigate the situation carefully.
The incident has sparked a lawsuit that raises important questions about religious discrimination in air travel, shedding light on the experiences of Orthodox Jewish individuals. The lawsuit serves as a reminder of the ongoing need for diversity and inclusion in the airline industry, as well as the broader social implications of addressing concerns related to religious discrimination.