The following question was posted today in the Ethics Column of the New York Times:
My husband and son took a New York-to-Milwaukee flight that was supposed to leave Friday at 11:29 a.m. The flight boarded after 4 and didn’t leave the gate until 4:40, and a half-hour later the pilot announced it would be another hour until takeoff. At that point a devout Jewish family, worried about violating the Sabbath, asked to get off. Going back to the gate cost the plane its place in line for takeoff, and the flight was eventually canceled. Was the airline right to grant that request? M. W.,NORWALK, CONN.
Before looking at the response from the NY Time’s resident Ethicist, consider some of the following points:
- Is it reasonable for an Orthodox Jew to book a ticket on a short flight leaving late Friday morning in the Summer (the flight took place in August).
- If there is a 4 hour delay before boarding, is it reasonable for a passenger to refuse to board and demand that their luggage be removed from the plane, which could would cause further delays to other passengers.
- If you end up on a plane close to Shabbat, is it reasonable to ask the crew if you can get off. If so, If the crew is unable to accommodate your request, how much of a “fuss should you make?
- What are the Halachic implications of being stuck on a plane when Shabbat comes in? Could you deplane? If there is a hotel in the airport terminal, or within walking distance, could you check into it? What about issues of Tchum Shabbat, could you leave the terminal on Shabbat?