The Adler family says they experienced “humiliation” after being forced off a flight to Detroit last year.
Southfield residents Yehuda Yosef Adler and Jennie Adler filed a lawsuit on Jan. 28 against American Airlines for discrimination on the basis of race, religion and nationality. The couple, who identify as Orthodox Jews, stated they were asked by a pilot to exit the aircraft just over a year ago due to their “extremely offensive body odor.”
The Adlers and their 19-month-old daughter were passengers on a flight from Miami to Detroit on Jan. 23, 2019. In their lawsuit, the Adlers stated that an American Airlines gate agent approached them shortly after being seated, stating, “Sir, there’s an emergency and you must deplane.”
According to the lawsuit filed by the Adler’s representative, Nwadi Nwogu of the Odunze Nwogu Law Group of Houston, the gate agent further stated that “the pilot was booting the family off the plane because of [their] body odor.”
The Adlers said no one had mentioned that they had offensive odor prior to their flight or during previous flights. They also stated they had showered that morning.
The lawsuit further states that the American Airlines agent “made disparaging and derogatory statements, telling the Adlers that he knew that Orthodox Jews take baths once a week.”
After being forced to exit the plane, the Adlers approached people near their boarding gate and had asked if they could detect unpleasant body odor coming from any member of the family. The lawsuit states that more than 20 people “responded in the negative.”
Despite the family’s request to board again, they were not permitted on the flight. The Adlers requested that their luggage be returned to them, but the agent said the plane was already closed and ready for take-off.
The plane left with Adler’s luggage, leaving the family without a change of clothes, their child’s car seat, stroller and diapers.
Although American Airlines gave them hotel accommodations and a flight back to Detroit the following day, the Adlers said they were embarrassed and traumatized by the incident.
The lawsuit further states that the pilot “distributed this humiliating yet disturbing false report of the Adlers’ body odor to the press and public.”
The Adlers asserted that American Airlines “intentionally discriminated” against their family which resulted in the family “being pressured to see their race and religion as inferior to that of whites, dirty and unwelcome.”
The lawsuit further states that the American Airlines acted negligently by lying to the Adlers about an emergency to deplane, failing to provide a safe travel environment and failing to “treat a Jew, Orthodox Jew, the same way as [the] white speaking pilot and other passengers.”
Nwogu, the Adlers’ attorney, could not be reached for comment.
In a statement to the Jewish News, American Airlines said: “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 Adlers are seeking compensatory damages including damages for emotional distress, punitive damages and attorney fees.