A Michigan couple and their 19-month-old daughter were removed from an American Airlines flight after the airline told them that other passengers and crew members had complained about their body odor.
Yossi Adler said he and his wife, Jennie, were heading home from a vacation in Miami on Wednesday night when they were told there was an emergency and they needed to exit the plane.
The couple, both 37, had eight other children at home in Southfield, Mich., so Adler said that he and his wife were worried that there may have been an incident involving one of them. Later, he said, when he and his wife stepped off the plane and the airline told them that they had been removed because of a stench, they were “humiliated,” “frustrated” and left wondering about the real reason.
“Obviously, there was a reason,” Adler, who is Jewish, said in a phone interview Friday with The Washington Post. “But I think it was an anti-Semitic reason."
“Even if it wasn’t,” he added, “they were anti-Semitic afterward.”
American Airlines said in a statement that the Adlers were asked to deplane after “multiple passengers, along with our crew members, complained about Mr. Adler’s body odor. Our Miami airport team members were concerned about the comfort of our other passengers due to the odor. Our team members took care of the family and provided hotel accommodations and meals, and rebooked them on a flight to Detroit Thursday morning.”
The airline said its employees did not know of Adler’s religion.
Adler said the vouchers that American Airlines gave him for food and lodging did not work, so he had to pay out of pocket. The airline said that should not have been the case but that it will look into the matter and ensure any such expenses are reimbursed.
In any case, Adler said, had the airline been that concerned about his body odor, it should have given him clean clothes to wear. Instead, he said, he had to wear the same clothes on the flight the next morning because he did not have his belongings.
Video showed the Adlers approach a ticket counter Wednesday evening, complaining that the airline had removed them from the plane and then sent their belongings ahead to Detroit.
“I’m trying to stay calm here,” Yossi Adler told an employee. “But there’s two Jewish people on the plane, and now they’re kicking us off because of odor. Seriously? Nobody here thinks I have odor.
“I need to get on a plane tonight. I have eight children at home.”
At one point, after Adler asked airline workers for an explanation for the removal, one of them asked him, “You told me for religious reasons you don’t shower?”
“I shower every day!” Adler quickly responded. “I said you kicked me off because of religious reasons.”
But some people who said they were also passengers on the flight said that it was not about religion.
A person who spoke to The Post on the condition of anonymity said that he and his girlfriend were also on the plane and that there was indeed a stench.
Another woman who claims to have been on the flight took to Twitter to back up American Airline’s claim. “The smell was so bad I don’t think I could have made it through the 2.5 hr flight,” she said.
Asked about that claim, Adler said in a text message to The Post that “the ‘BO’ is a fairy tale and cover for the reprehensible discrimination exhibited to myself and the insensitive treatment I and my family received by AA staff. My attorneys will prove that the BO claim is absolute nonsense.”
Adler told The Post that he had showered Wednesday morning.
Adler described the experience as a “horrible” ordeal, explaining that airline employees were walking around the airport holding their noses and fanning their faces. He said that had there been a legitimate body odor issue, the employees, who have a responsibly in the service industry “to go above and beyond,” should have helped him.
“Not once in my life has someone said I smell,” he told The Post.
There have been numerous incidents on airplanes in recent years, from issues with service and support animals to problems with passengers who claimed they were removed from flights over a birthday cake, breast-feeding and menstrual cramps, and a seat-kicking toddler. Last year, an African woman was booted from a United Airlines flight after a passenger complained that she had a “pungent” odor. The woman sued for racial discrimination.