A Jewish couple has filed a lawsuit against Spirit Airlines for alleged anti-Semitic and racist treatment, including being called “retarded Jews.”
In court documents filed to the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida, lawyer Yechezkel Rodal says Yisroel Sternberg, 28, and Chana Beck, 25, were targeted for being “visibly religious Jews.”
In a statement to USA TODAY days after the incident, Spirit spokesperson Derek Dombrowski said: “Our records indicate that this guest ignored flight and ground crew instructions multiple times, beginning with the boarding process and continuing through landing.”
In a follow-up statement Dombrowski said the airline has “zero tolerance for discrimination.”
“Spirit Airlines strives to maintain a welcoming environment for all of our guests,” he said. “Because of pending litigation, we will not be commenting further.”
The incident began as a misunderstanding about a car seat during a trip from New York to Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 8, 2019. The lawsuit alleges that though the Sternbergs had gotten prior approval to use a car seat for their 6-week-old daughter, once onboard, the flight crew began “irately” telling the family the seat was not permitted.
Beck had to hold the child during the flight.
During the flight, Sternberg and a flight attendant named Jose also got into a verbal argument over him moving seats. Once back in his assigned seat, Sternberg asked for the attendant’s full name, which was not given.
“Yisroel then asked for the name of the head flight attendant, to which Jose responded
by yelling ‘SHUT UP’ to Yisroel. Once again shocked by the conduct of the flight crew, Yisroel asked Jose not to speak to him in that manner,” the lawsuit reads. Jose allegedly said he could “speak to Yisroel however he wanted” and then informed him that law enforcement would be waiting for the family at their destination.
Another passenger, who the Sternbergs didn’t know, also told them that they heard a member of the flight crew calling the family “the retarded Jews.”
The lawsuit goes on to say a 911 call placed by the airline said that the Sternbergs were “being disruptive and cursing at the flight attendants and stuff like that.”
After being escorted off the plane by police officials, the Sternbergs were informed that their return flight to Newark was canceled and that the family was forever banned from Spirit Airlines flights.
Now the family is seeking a trial by jury.
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