United sued for delaying Israel flight over fictitious Tel Aviv curfew

United Airlines initially said its flight to Israel on August 6 was delayed due to a curfew in Tel Aviv, but no such curfew existed.

A United Airlines passenger jet taxis at Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey, U.S. December 6, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS/CHRIS HELGREN)
A United Airlines passenger jet taxis at Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey, U.S. December 6, 2019.
(photo credit: REUTERS/CHRIS HELGREN)

United Airlines is being sued for $50,000 over the cancellation of a flight from New Jersey’s Newark Airport to Ben-Gurion Airport due to an alleged curfew in Tel Aviv on incoming flights.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the plaintiff by Migir Ilganayev of the Ilganayev Law Firm, accused United Airlines of a number of charges including fraud, breach of contract, negligence and more.

The summons was filed against United on August 26 under penalty of judgment requiring the airline to pay $50,000 with interest and legal fees.

“[United] committed fraud and deceit against Plaintiff and all other passengers when its crew refused to perform their job, and United deliberately, and knowingly lied about the reason for its delay,” the summons states.

"[United] committed fraud and deceit against the Plaintiff and all other passengers when its crew refused to perform their job, and United deliberately, and knowingly lied about the reason for its delay."

Summons against United Airlines

Background: Why did United Airlines cancel a flight to Israel?

On August 6, United Airlines flight 84 from Newark Airport to Ben-Gurion Airport was suddenly canceled, set to be delayed 24 hours.

At first, the reason seemed to be that the plane’s pilots refused to fly to Israel, as evidenced by footage of the announcement at the gate shared on social media by delayed passenger Gil Eyal.

Later, United Airlines informed passengers that the delay was due to a curfew in Tel Aviv that restricted planes from landing. This was further confirmed as the reason for the delay by statements on United’s website.

This curfew would have come amid the IDF’s Operation Breaking Dawn, the most recent round of fighting between Israel and Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip. The operation saw rockets fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad into Israel, including in the Tel Aviv area.

However, despite this and United’s claims, there was no such curfew in place in Tel Aviv. This was further confirmed by a Jerusalem Post press query to Ben-Gurion Airport.

“There is no curfew. At all,” said a Ben-Gurion Airport representative.

"There is no curfew. At all."

Ben-Gurion Airport spokesperson

Eyal also confirmed this account. He had first been told the flight was canceled due to the crew’s refusal to fly, after which he tried to contact United again.

“When I heard back from United, the story had changed,” he recounted. “Now they were saying the flight was canceled due to a curfew. They did not respond when I said there was no curfew.”

Responding to a Post query at the time, United said the delay was due to a maintenance issue, despite the prior statements on the website that it was due to a curfew.

 United Airlines informing passengers on flight 84 to Tel Aviv that their flight was delayed due to a Tel Aviv curfew, which doesn't exist. (credit: Courtesy Shirlee Klein) United Airlines informing passengers on flight 84 to Tel Aviv that their flight was delayed due to a Tel Aviv curfew, which doesn't exist. (credit: Courtesy Shirlee Klein)

Another reason was also given to the plaintiff by United customer service, who said it was due to thunderstorms and bad weather, though weather forecasts didn’t indicate any of this. He was then later told it was a maintenance issue before being told it was due to a curfew.

Forced to find other means of going to Israel, the plaintiff took a flight to Israel with El Al with out-of-pocket costs of $769.80, as did some other passengers, as noted in the court summons.

However, the plaintiff, like the others, was denied access to his luggage, and they would have had to board another United Airlines flight to Israel set for a few hours later that day. Despite being warned of a probable delay due to this reported curfew, the flight would take off without issue.

As relayed to the Post by other passengers on board the flight, United provided little to no support during this entire ordeal and did not provide any compensation, including barring the traditional $40 meal voucher. They also reportedly denied offering accommodations to the stranded passengers, though United disputes this and claims they did.

"Clearly, United did not want to be honest with its passengers that the flight was delayed due to the pilot's refusal to fly because that would leave them solely liable to all of their passengers."

Summons against United Airlines

So why did United claim there was a curfew?

One allegation brought against United is that the claim of a supposed curfew in Tel Aviv would avoid the need to provide compensation to passengers.

“Clearly, United did not want to be honest with its passengers that the flight was delayed due to the pilot’s refusal to fly because that would leave them solely liable to all of their passengers,” the summons said.

According to United’s policy, the company does not offer compensation or accommodations for flights that are delayed for reasons outside their control.

The Post has reached out to United for comment on the summons. As of press time, there has been no reply.