A Michigan couple is suing American Airlines after they were allegedly removed from their flight because the staff disliked how they smelled.
Yehuda Yosef Adler and Jennie Adler were flying from Miami to Detroit with their 19-month-old daughter when the "humiliating" incident occurred last year, the Detroit Free Press reported.
The couple, who are Orthodox Jews, said that no other passengers had said anything about their smell, but when they boarded their flight a pilot complained of their "extremely offensive body odour," the Jewish News reports. They were then confronted by a gate agent who asked them to leave their seats due to an "emergency".
That gate agent ultimately told them he knew people of their religion only took baths once a week. Despite the couple stating that they had showered that morning, they were still barred from returning to their seats.
According to the family, the discrimination was based largely on their appearance: Yehuda was wearing a yarmulke and Jennie wore a long skirt and a sheytl, which is a wig worn by some Orthodox women after they are married.
"[The Adlers] were distraught and even though embarrassing, approached persons in the same area of the boarding gate asking them if they could detect unpleasant body odour from any of the [them]," the lawsuit states. "And each and every person (more than 20 people) answered in the negative."
American Airlines has disputed the claim that religion played a role in the Adlers being removed. The airline responded to the lawsuit in a statement on Thursday, noting that it provided full accommodation and booked new flights for the family following the ordeal.
"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," the statement read. "None of the decisions made by our team in handling this sensitive situation were based on the Adlers' religion."
The Adlers' lawsuit, filed earlier this week, claims the family has suffered continued emotional distress, damage to their reputations, fear of flying and more consequences after the discrimination they faced.
"The Adlers are being pressured to see their race and religion as inferior to that of whites, dirty and unwelcome," the lawsuit reads.
According to the lawsuit, the family is asking for punitive damages that would be decided by a jury. A scheduling conference for the case is set for May 29.