Prayer in the Air
Question: When I travel on an airplane I regularly join a minyan of Jews for prayer service at the back of the plane. This invariably creates highly unfavorable conditions for proper concentration and sometimes causes discomfort for stewardesses and fellow passengers. What is the right thing to do?
Answer: This question was recently put to the renowned halachic authority Rabbi Shmuel Halevi Wosner by El Al Rabbi Shmuel Avraham Katzir. In the ruling which he sent to El Al president Amos Shapira, Rabbi Wosner came out against the practice of large numbers of passengers gathering together for a prayer service in one part of the plane. He pointed out that, aside from being a safety hazard, such a practice is a detriment to true concentration.
Passengers should instead form small minyanim scattered around the plane and try to sit in their seats. During the amida prayer when they are required to stand, they should try to stand in or near their own places on the plane. If this is impractical they should not clog the aisles but remain seated even during this prayer and even fasten seat belts if asked to do so by the staff.
Another perspective on this problem was provided by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef who ruled that it is preferable to pray in the airport before a flight, even without a minyan, than with a minyan on the plane that risks disturbing the sleep of fellow passengers.