Last week, a disturbance occurred on board an El Al flight going from Tel Aviv to Uman, Ukraine. The problem began when the flight crew began to bring the movie screens down in order to show an in-flight movie. Several Chareidi men on the plane began to go wild, shouting and physically trying to prevent the screens from unfolding.
As the story goes, some of them were promised when they booked the flight that there would be no in-flight movie. I'm not sure how the airline could promise such a thing to some customers and not to all, but let's put that aside for the moment and assume that there was a bona fide promise. It still seems to me that rioting, shouting and physically interfereing with the equipment is not the best way to handle the situation (and, in fact, given the nature of air travel today, is a completely unacceptable way to handle it). If it were me (and, of course, assuming that I was careful not to watch movies and had been promised that no movies would be shown), this is how I would have handled it.
When the announcement of the movie was made, I would have brought it to the attention of the flight crew that a promise was made that there would be no in-flight movie. I would make my case forcefully and strongly... but respectfully. If that did the job, all well. If not, I would reiterate it, along with a threat to take the matter up with her superiors once the plane lands. I'd also make it clear that I plan to publicize the breach of contract on the airline's part to every news outlet and religious community that I could reach out to. But at no point would I become violent. At no point would I start shouting. And at no point would I attempt to interfere with the operation of the plane (including the movie equipment). If I fail in all my attempts on the plane to stop the movie, then that's it -- there is not much more to be done on the flight. I'd simply advise the crew again that I will be filing a formal complaint and simply sit down and not watch the movie. Of course, once we landed, I would take up the matter with the airline and proceed from there.
One commentator on Yeshiva World actually wants El Al to apologize to the Chareidim for putting them at risk of being shot by an air marshal! I don't know what the commentator is smoking, but my personal view is that if one of them were shot by an air marshal while rioting, it would largely be his own fault, not the fault of the airline. There is nothing that says that a person is required to riot to prevent a movie from being seen.
That being said, however, I think that there is a larger issue here -- the imposition of one's standards on other people. It should be fairly obvious from the story that this flight had a scheduled in-flight movie. As such, I don't see how El Al could promise a group of people that there would be no movie without taking the movie away from the paying customers who were looking forward to a movie on the long flight. By demanding that no movie to be shown, they were simply imposing their standards on people who do not accept them. Of course, El Al can make an accommodation and provide non-movie flights -- but that has to be an economic decision of the airline. Just like I can't *force* American Airlines to provide a kosher meal, no one can *force* El Al to not show movies.
I wonder how it is, however, that one comes to the conclusion that you can even ask a company to change it's policy just for your benefit. For example, this flight had an in-flight movie. While it's one thing to ask if there are any no-movie flights (and, perhaps, to suggest that the airline can make some money if they do institute such flights), I don't see how they can expect the airline to cancel an already-scheduled movie just at the request of one (or a few) passenger(s). After all, other people who have already booked the flight have paid for the right to have an in-flight movie. It's similar to my asking American Airlines to make sure that only kosher food is available on a flight -- not just for me, but for everyone else. Of course, American isn't required to make that accommodation solely for me and I have no right to expect it (and certainly no right to riot when I find out that my Irish neighbor is having a ham sandwich for lunch).
If you're starting to get that feeling of deja vu, it's with good reason. After all, we've been through all this before. Not with airplanes, but with buses in Israel. While it's one thing to have Mehadrin buses, where the genders sit separately, it's far beyond the pale to demand that the gender's sit apart on non-Mehadrin buses. That is another example of one group seeking to impose its standards on a larger population. Personally, I find it disturbing that groups seek to do this. Apparently, they have the idea that their way is THE way and that there is no possibility of anyone else's way possibly being acceptable as well.
Bottom line is this: If El Al promised these people a no-movie flight, then they are owed an apology for the breaking of that promise. But the rioting people also owe an apology to every other passenger on the flight for their rude and crude behavior.