Photo Credit: Steve Knight
Delta Air Lines Boeing 767 at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, February 23, 2015.

Police at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport removed 18 Orthodox Jewish girls from a Delta-KLM flight to New York last Thursday, the Jewish magazine Nieuw Israëlietisch Weekblad reported Friday (KLM verwijdert achttien Joodse meisjes van vlucht).

There was a big fuss during a KLM flight from Kiev to New York with a transfer at Amsterdam-Schiphol. On the flight from the Ukrainian capital to Amsterdam was a group of fifty Orthodox Jewish girls from the United States who had made a tour of important European Jewish destinations. The entire group would fly from Schiphol to New York so that the girls would be home before Shabbat, NIW reported..

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But things went wrong on the flight to Amsterdam. There appeared to be no kosher meals, while these girls eat “glatt kosher,” i.e. according to Jewish dietary laws (Actually, “glatt kosher” is a specific reference to the kashrut of a slaughtered animal, but it has been popularly taken to mean “very kosher” – DI). According to a brother of one of the girls, who had telephone contact with his sister, the flight attendants were very strict about wearing a facemask. As some of the girls started to get hungry—they had brought out their own food—they started eating. However, according to the flight attendants, they did this outside the “official mealtime” during the flight and that is against the COVID rules. The crew’s actions were such that even non-Jewish passengers protested against their behavior towards the girls, says lawyer Herman Loonstein, whose help was later enlisted.

Once they landed at Schiphol, it turned out that a group of eighteen girls was missing during the boarding of the flight to New York. They had been arrested. The leader of the group only found out when she was already on the plane herself. She wanted to leave the plane again to look for the girls, but the crew threatened her with arrest if she did. She left anyway.

When the leader finally found her group of girls, it turned out that KLM had randomly selected eighteen out of the fifty girls to ban from the flight. The passenger list that the NIW obtained shows that they acted indiscriminately in alphabetical order: the passengers with a surname from A to K were left at the airport, regardless of whether or not they had broken the rules.

The group was told that KLM’s partner Delta wanted to take them on the next flight, but that there would be a payment of €2000 per ticket ($2,353) plus €275 ($323) per person for forwarding the luggage. In the meantime, the group had contacted Jewish organizations in Amsterdam. Rabbi Yanki Jacobs of Chabad on Campus brought kosher pizzas to Schiphol Thursday night, which were delivered to the group by the airport’s Christian pastor. There was also behind the scenes contact between the airline and hotel owner Baruch van de Kamp, attorney Herman (and his son Chizky) Loonstein. Also, the American embassy was informed. Meanwhile, the news spread like wildfire in Orthodox circles in America.

The group of eighteen girls was given a kosher breakfast Friday morning, provided by the Orthodox Jewish NGO NIISA. Herman Loonstein, who delivered the breakfast trays, was initially not allowed to deliver the food, but after much haggling was permitted to serve the girls their kosher meals.

It also became clear early Friday afternoon that the group could no longer join another flight that would leave for New York because it would have arrived on Shabbat. In the meantime, an application was been made for an emergency visa for the young women and they were allowed to travel to Antwerp for Shabbat. The group hopes to be able to fly to New York on Sunday or Monday.

Here’s the official statement on the event, care of Delta-KLM:

The safety and well-being of our customers and our crew is always our top priority. Delta flight DL47 today from Amsterdam to New York-JFK was delayed after a group of passengers on board refused to follow the crew’s instructions. After the group refused to leave the plane, all passengers were asked to get off the plane, according to Delta’s protocol. At 12:40 PM local time, the re-boarding process was completed, without the group. We apologize to our customers for the delay and thank our customers for their patience and understanding.

Here’s a question: what’s the problem with removing your facemask to eat outside the official mealtime? Is the spread of the virus in check during authorized mealtimes? Also, can you say, “Boycott Delta-KLM?”

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.