Watchdog claims KLM seat change request was gender discrimination

Dutch airline KLM discriminated when it asked woman to move for Orthodox man, watchdog finds.

Cnaan Liphshiz, JTA ,

KLM plane
KLM plane
iStock

A Dutch human rights board found the national airline KLM guilty of discriminating against a woman who was moved from her seat because an Orthodox Jewish man wouldn’t sit near her.

The Human Rights College, a watchdog organization whose members are appointed by the king, made the ruling Thursday in a review of an incident from May 2019 aboard an airplane traveling from New York to Amsterdam, the AD news site reported.

KLM “made a gender discrimination against the couple by failing to provide a discrimination-free environment during a flight.”

Ronald van Raak, a lawmaker for the Socialist Party, submitted a complaint to the College after his wife was bumped from her seat because of the protestations of an Orthodox passenger who said he did not want to sit next to a woman. (This scenario arises from time to time on flights, where people usually do not have discretion over where they sit.)

KLM cabin crew asked the van Raaks to “cooperate in solving this problem” in order to “make the boarding process as smooth as possible,” the rights board said. “However, the Orthodox Jewish man was not held accountable for his behavior, nor was it made clear to him that there were discriminatory aspects,” it ruled, adding: “Also, the Orthodox Jewish man or company he was part of was not asked to cooperate in solving the seating problem.”



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