An online petition has been launched which calls on Israel’s national airline to stop allowing the “bullying” of female passengers.

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Ultra-Orthodox men held up the El Al flight after refusing to sit next to women

Last week a group of Orthodox men delayed a busy flight from Israel to New York by refusing to sit next to women then caused chaos in the air after the plane took off.

The furore almost caused hundreds of people to miss the start of Rosh Hashanah, as the men spent hours remonstrating and trying to persuade female passengers to move, even offering them money to do so.

The women refused to be segregated, but when the El Al flight from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport finally took off, the men got up and crowded the aisles, making it “mission impossible” for anyone else to move around or go to the toilet.

“Why does El Al Airlines permit female passengers to be bullied, harassed, and intimidated into switching seats which they rightfully paid for and were assigned to by El Al Airlines?” asked the online petitioner.

“One person’s religious rights do not trump another person’s civil rights.”

One female passenger, who sat with her husband, described the Tel Aviv-New York flight as “an 11-hour nightmare” as flight staff allegedly refused to order the men to take a seat.

Chicago passenger Sharon Shaprio said: “If a passenger was abusive to airline staff, they would be removed from the plane. If a passenger was flouting the rules for take-off, thereby causing flight delay, they would be removed from the plane. If a passenger was openly engaging in racial or religious discrimination against another passenger or flight attendant, they would be removed from the plane.”