- Spirit Airlines said it removed a family of 4 off a flight because they refused to wear masks.
- Video of the incident shows the masked parents being told to leave as their maskless child eats.
- Spirit said what is not shown in the video is the parents, moments earlier, not complying with mask mandates.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Spirit Airlines is defending its decision to remove a family from a flight over what it said were mask violations
In a video posted online, a father, a pregnant mother, and their two children — one of whom the mother says has special needs — are seen being told to exit the plane. At the time that the video is being filmed, the mother and father are both wearing masks, though the father is seen removing his at some points to speak to the flight attendant. One of their children is sitting on the mother’s lap, not wearing a mask, and eating.
“I told you, non-compliance — you’ll have to get off. I didn’t want to do this,” a flight attendant, who appears to be a different individual than the one who originally confronted the family, is heard saying in a video posted by Disclose.tv on Twitter.
Spirit told Insider that the airline directed the family to exit because the parents were not complying with mask mandate, which the company says was not captured on video and came before the viral video was filmed.
According to multiple videos published by the Orthodox Jewish website The Yeshiva World, the family is seen exiting the plane and meeting with law enforcement at the terminal. All passengers onboard the plane are seen exiting as well.
Spirit told Insider that it’s standard protocol in the airline industry to de-board the entire plane if there’s an incident with a passenger. The company also said the couple initially refused to de-board, which is why Spirit forced all the passengers off the plane. If the family had agreed to deplane, the rest of the passengers would have remained on board, according to Spirit.
Another video shows a Black flight attendant walking away from the terminal after the plane was de-boarded, with the video-taker saying, “Walk of shame. Cops are escorting him away.”
Federal law still requires all passengers above the age of 2 to wear a mask when they’re not eating aboard a flight. President Joe Biden signed an executive order in late January that required all air travelers to wear masks on planes, and the CDC has also mandated face masks on multiple modes of transportation, including buses and subways.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) followed suit in February when it began requiring travellers to wear masks at checkpoints.
On its website, Spirit Airlines says it enforces a mask policy in line with Biden’s executive order and other federal requirements. It requires all travelers to wear face coverings while onboard the aircraft and may be removed only when they are eating, drinking, or taking medicine.
“Guests who choose not to comply with our face-covering requirement will lose future flight privileges with Spirit,” reads the website. “Children under the age of 2 years old are exempt.”
—Disclose.tv 🚨 (@disclosetv) April 5, 2021
Another video shows the family, as well as the rest of the flight’s passengers, reboarding the plane after the incident. The father is heard saying that he thinks the flight attendant who originally started the confrontation was removed from the plane, per videos published by Yeshiva World. Spirit denied that account and told Insider that the crew was merely swapped out but did not clarify if that was standard protocol for scenarios such as this.
Fellow budget airline Frontier drew similar attention in early March when it says it canceled a flight because a 21-group of Orthodox Jewish passengers refused to wear masks. One member of that group pushed back on that account and said staff initiated the debacle when his 15-month-old child was not wearing a mask while eating.
Workers in the airlines, food, and retail industries have been tasked within the past year to enforce mask mandates among customers, some of whom are unwilling to comply. Mask-wearing has become largely politicized since last March, with some Republicans driving a narrative that the COVID-19 pandemic is less severe than it seems.