Aegean Apologizes After Booting Palestinians From Flight

One of the stranger airline stories of the week came from Aegean, where a Sunday night flight from Athens to Tel Aviv was delayed after a group of passengers refused to fly with the two Palestinian passengers onboard, to the point that they refused to sit down until they were removed.

Aegean

Via The Independent:

The complainants claimed the Israeli Arab citizens could be “terrorists”, according to Israel Radio, and demanded to search their luggage even after they had left the aircraft, but were refused by stewards.

A spokesperson for Aegean Airlines confirmed the incident, telling The Independent a small group of passengers had “very vocally and persistently asked for two other Israeli passengers to be checked for security issues”.

“While it is indeed unfortunate that they were possibly racially profiling the customers, indeed their fellow Israelis,  because safety must be first, the pilot did feel compelled to delay the flight call the police so to check again the two Israeli passengers documents and identities,” she added.

The documents were found to be in order but the spokesperson said the delay had caused further unrest as a larger group of passengers reacted, despite assurances given by the crew.

The Palestinian passengers were offered a free hotel and flight the following day, which they accepted, and their luggage was taken out of the hold.

That’s quite an unfortunate incident. So a group of passengers profiled two passengers, demanded the crew search them, and when they did and everything was found to be okay, they were still offloaded? I’m also not sure I follow the statement from the spokesperson either. So Aegean regrets the “racial profiling of [their] customers,” but then go on to say that they still gave in because safety comes first?

Given the amount of media attention this story got, Aegean’s CEO has now issued an open letter to the Palestine Liberation Organization. I guess it could be considered a quasi-apology:

Dr Saeb Erekat, the airline’s CEO Dimitris Gerogiannis said he “[rejected] any possibility of discrimination” which he said was in “complete opposition” to the principles of the airline.

He said: “We would like to emphasize that our crew did try for more than an hour and thirty minutes to resolve the situation.

“Unfortunately by the time that all the security had been rechecked, yes there was unwarranted and indeed unfair continued reaction by a large group of passengers but also the two affected passengers did not feel comfortable to fly.

“It was mostly out of concern for the two passengers’ comfort and safety during this flight, after all that had transpired, that we suggested they might stay at our expense overnight and indeed board another flight the next day”.

He stressed that the airline “regretted the whole event” which was “quite unprecedented in our experience”.

I’m inclined to give Aegean the benefit of the doubt here. This is clearly a really unfortunate situation which was fueled by discrimination. In practice Aegean should have invited the passengers uncomfortable with the situation to deplane, rather than booting the passengers who (seemingly) had done nothing wrong.

How would that have worked in practice, though? If it was basically two people vs. most of the other passengers, I doubt the others would have deplaned, and if everyone stayed onboard it sounds like it could have easily escalated into a bigger situation after takeoff.

Bottom line

This is an unfortunate situation, and reminds me a bit of the stories we’ve heard in the past few months about Muslims experiencing discrimination on flights within the US. I think the airline was in the wrong for even engaging the passengers who were discriminating.

Ultimately it sounds like a good thing that the plane didn’t take off with everyone, because it could have escalated after takeoff. I don’t think the passengers being unfairly discriminated against should have been removed, though.

What do you make of this story, and what responsibility does Aegean bear in all this?

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. The article doesn’t mention the number of people opposed to the two guys travelling. In general, I would agree with you: the complainers should exit the plane.

    On the other hand, if it was 80% of the people in the plane, you’d only have a huge number of people you would have to accomodate. Actually, thinking while writing: if they choose not to take their flight, it’s their problem. It’s pretty racist behaviour by the passengers and I really dislike (let’s stay friendly here…) their attitude.

  2. Israel shouldn’t be a country anyways. Tel Aviv is supposed to be Palestine. Ok, I understand the situation but this goes to the United Nations for a “human rights issue”. I have requested for Aegean to suspend services to Israelis on flights to Tel Aviv.

    I’m just joking. I’m muslim, I am palestinian and I feel discrimination every flight. It’s unreal.

  3. Yay another bash Israel topic!

    This occurred in Greece on an Aegean aircraft yet everyone always attacks and blames Israel and the Jews.

    Something’s never change.

  4. “Aegean should have invited the passengers uncomfortable with the situation to deplane, rather than booting the passengers who (seemingly) had done nothing wrong.”

    Well said Lucky.

    The article said that it was a “small group of passengers” who were initially vocal. The airline should have offered to boot these off but since it neglected, it then escalated to the point that most passengers then become uncomfortable.
    It is sad to see how those vocal passengers have turned into terrorizing passengers themselves by racially profiling others and refusing to fly with the poor Palestinians. Instead of working hard for peace and love thy neighbor, the above incident is fueling hatred and distance.
    Sad indeed. I’d call those passengers the terrorist and the poor Palestinians the victims.

  5. So it’s out there – this was a huge story in Israel and most Israelis were disgusted by this ignorant behavior, and disappointed that other reasonable passengers on the flight didn’t vocally object to this nonsense or film it to expose the guilty parties. The passengers ejected may have been Palestinian, but they were also Israeli. This is not normal behavior here – we ride buses, trains, and planes with Arab Israelis every day through out the country.

  6. If people in America were being stabled, run over by cars , shot at because they are Americans , if bombs went off in Pizza Hut, if killing occurred in super markets, if rockets landed in your back yard , if our soldiers were kidnapped , if planes were flown into skyscrapers , if airplanes were hijacked, if our athletes were murdered at the Olympic games ,if our newspaper reporters had heads cut off and you were told all were done by little green men from Mars and found yourself on a flight with men from Mars , are you brave enough ( or dumb enough) to say I trust them – not me

  7. The articles I read stated that the pilot and crew were actually supporting the two men but they eventually felt so uncomfortable that they did not want to stay on the flight with their harassers. Not that Aegean forced them off.

  8. this goes to joe,
    since isreal should not be a country, then maybe neither should the usa, let’s everyone in the usa, give thier fancy homes back to the american indians, and let the american indians live here, and we can all go back to europe, africa, south america, etc…..

    maybe it is wrong, of this airline, but these people are living in constant fear of attacks.

  9. @ Josh G – no one is blaming Israel and the Jews for the behavior of a handful of racists (yes, that’s what they are) on a Greek airline. It is no different from me as a white American refusing to fly with a black person based on some incorrect assumptions (aka prejudices) about African-American behaviors.

    For those of you who seek to defend the behavior of the airline or the majority of passengers who refused to fly, don’t. It is indefensible, and does the cause of Israel no favors. Many people believe that the Israeli government and citizens are engaged in some sort of apartheid against Arab Israelis, and your defense of the Jewish Israeli passengers sure makes it look that way.

    Rather, you (and we) should be disgusted by the behavior that occurred, and should feel sad that it was ever allowed to come to that.

  10. I’m an Arab Muslim, and while I see accommodating the opposers on another flight as the more logical thing to do (ethnicity and reasons aside), what they did with the Palestinians wasn’t catastrophic at all. If they agreed to get a free night and the next flight, then so be it.

  11. Wait, where in the article did it say that the two Israeli Arabs were Muslim? They could have just as easily been Christian.

  12. @Abdel Rahim Abdallah

    We’ll remember that if and when it happens to you one day. The fact that it happened at all is still rather sad.

  13. Ok if the two passengers were offered a hotel room and a flight for the next day, why wouldn’t they take it??? The article said the two passengers felt uncomfortable, which re-emphasizes how they took Aegean’s offer. It was a quick move to get the flight going… If the crew said for those passengers that were uncomfortable to deplane then the flight would have been canceled.

    P.S. This is most probably the first time such an experience occurs for the Greek crew… therefore they did not necessarily know how to properly handle it…

  14. The Israelis are such hypocrites. They obviously don’t or want to remember their own history. Modern day genocide against the palestinians is happening right now!!

  15. I agree with Lucky: The people who had the issue should have been deplaned, and since they refused to take the flight they can find another way to get home, the airline met its obligation and doesn’t need to rebook them.

    Also, for the safety of the Arabs in question, they should be moved up to first class so they are as far away as possible from anyone who may wish them harm.

    It’s time we stop bowing to the demands of bullies, there are two ways to accomplish what these people wanted and they chose the wrong course. You don’t want to fly with “those people”? Fine, get off the plane!

  16. This is a clear case of racism by Israelis passengers against two Israeli Arabs. There’s nothing new here about racism and discrimination against Arabs in Israel. But the airline’s action is both wrong and reprehensible, especially when they checked and found nothing wrong with the two passengers. Airlines should uphold the laws of IATA and not give in to intimidation and bullying. Aegean has also failed the test of morality here.

  17. I feel uncomfortable with Americans on the plane with me, because they have such easy access to guns. If little green men were on a murder spree across the country, I wouldn’t want to fly with them; Americans are on a murder spree. I want them all offloaded.

  18. The large group of complaining pax was invited to deplane by the captain; though the two pax decided to voluntarily leave since they felt not safe on board. Which, after all that, I can certainly understand.

  19. There is a big mistake in your post. Those passengers weren’t Palestinians – they were Israeli cotozens of Arab descent.
    Also, the other peaasenger’s reactions were understandable, considering the outraging muslims running around and stabbing Jewish people in Israel.

  20. @EDGER— stop ranting and uttering none sense, my 2 cents is get the hell out of their country !! Theyll keep doing what hey are going till the end of time, till they liberate their land that was taken by zionist scum of the earth who came from every corner of the world while Palestinians are treated by Zionists worse than Jews were treated by Nazis.
    And for your info, I am neither Palestinian nor a Muslim, I am a Christian American.

  21. “Those passengers weren’t Palestinians – they were Israeli cotozens of Arab descent.”

    They were Israeli citizens of Palestinian descent, you could also say.

  22. to lucy

    so why don’t you leave america, and let american be given back to the american indians. why don’t you get the hell out of the american indians country?

  23. Ben ! Im a Palestinian muslim and a frequent traveler in first/bussiness class. And i read everything you write on your blog! You are in fact one of the people I look up to. Im also an aviation geek! Ive faced a lot of facial profiling in my travels when im with my parents, but never when im alone. And a lot of people onboard specially european/american airlines start to look at my family in a really weird way which is kind of annoying, but later we got used to it,,, but this is quite shocking to see that the 2 passengers were removed, but I also understand how this could’ve escalated after take off!

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