A Jewish family from north London is “still reeling” after Israeli counter-terrorism officers removed them from a Luton-bound plane at Tel Aviv because their 19-month-old child was crying.
Ariella and Mark Aziz were flying with Dutch airline Transavia on a chartered flight laid on for Pesach when their daughter, Sarina, became agitated when cabin crew requested she move from her allocated seat onto the lap of one of her parents for take-off.
As the plane set off towards the runway, following long delays, the family struggled to keep her in the connector belt provided for infants under the age of two, leading cabin crew to declare a “security incident”.
Despite the packed plane already being several hours late, the pilot turned round and returned to Ben-Gurion Airport, where armed police boarded the plane and removed the family.
“Everyone could see we were trying to calm Sarina down, but we couldn’t do anything,” said Ariella. “She was screaming, flailing around, hitting her head and injuring herself. She got herself so worked up she was sick. The stewards were so aggressive, they weren’t helping at all.”
Police officers stormed the plane and removed the family, to other passengers’ dismay. “It was like a terrorist incident, I couldn’t believe it,” said Ariella. “The next thing you know we’re all in squad cars heading back to Ben-Gurion.”
There, the family’s nightmare continued, with no accommodation due to the holidays, no kosher food due to the late hour, and a young daughter “covered in sick”. Ariella said the airline was “wildly unprofessional,” adding: “The way they behaved defied logic. They made no effort to deal with the baby. We’re still reeling.”
Ben Wasserstrum, a fellow passenger from London, said they were right to be aggrieved. “The plane was already an hour late, so all the kids were agitated,” he said.
“Mark’s daughter was constantly crying, she didn’t want to put the seatbelt on. The stewardess didn’t help. Mark had his daughter on his lap, he had hold of her, but she insisted. Then this male steward comes over. He was aggressive, standing over them, threatening to throw them off, even as Mark’s daughter was throwing up.”
Wasserstrum admits that Mark “said something rude to him” but insisted that “the family were unbelievably restrained given how the crew were acting – if it was me I’d have punched the guy.”
He continued: “Then the pilot said there’s been a security breach and we have to go back. The pilot even slammed his brakes on, throwing people through the aisles. We all wanted to get off the plane with the family. It was a disgrace, from start to finish.”
A spokeswoman for the airline, which said it will not be compensating the Aziz family, told Jewish News: “The ill child was misbehaving and the family did not follow safety belt instructions, which is a priority for all passengers. We cannot take passengers on a flight if they do not follow the rules.”
She added: “We will not jeopardise the flight. It was unfortunate that the child was ill, but a sick child is not an excuse for refusing to following safety instructions.”