Spirit Airlines is defending its decision to de-board an entire flight after it says a family refused to wear masks

Katie Canales
·4 min read
Spirit Airlines
Ken Wolter/Shutterstock.com
  • Spirit Airlines said it removed a family of four from 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 says what is not shown is the parents not complying with mask mandates moments earlier.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Spirit Airlines is defending its decision to deplane a flight over what it said was one family's mask violations.

The Monday fight from Orlando, Florida, to Atlantic City, New Jersey, was ultimately delayed more than two hours after passengers were deplaned and the family was allowed to reboard the flight.

A video from a portion of the incident was posted on Twitter, but the full event remains unclear. In one widely shared video, a father, a pregnant mother, and their two children are seen being told to exit the plane. In the video, the mother and father are both wearing masks, though the father is seen removing his at some points to speak with the flight attendant.

One of their children is sitting on the mother's lap, not wearing a mask, and eating.

"I told you, noncompliance - you'll have to get off. I didn't want to do this," a flight attendant, who appears to be a different person from the one who originally confronted the family, is heard saying in the video posted by Disclose.TV.

The flight attendant later points to the child on the woman's lap when asked by both parents who isn't complying.

In the video, the flight attendant tells the family to leave the aircraft, saying "I'll have to deplane the aircraft and call the police" if they do not comply.

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The video was shared widely, with many on social media expressing anger over the family's removal from the airplane. Some said it appeared the family was removed because of the young child's failure to wear a mask. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz shared the video on Twitter with the caption, "This is lunacy."

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In a statement posted to Spirit's Twitter account, the company said, "We're aware of incorrect information circulating about Spirit Airlines Flight 138 from Orlando to Atlantic City. The flight was delayed due to compliance issues with the federal mask requirement. We allowed our Guests to continue on the flight to their destination after assurances of compliance. The safety of our Guests and Team Members is our top priority."

Federal law requires all passengers over the age of 2 to wear a mask when they're not eating aboard a flight. President Joe Biden signed an executive order in January that required all air travelers to wear masks on planes, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also mandated face masks on multiple modes of transportation, including buses and subways.

It's unclear how old the child not wearing the mask is, but in one video of the incident, the parents say the child is just one month older than 2 years old, Newsweek reported.

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 on board the aircraft and says they may be removed only when passengers are eating, drinking, or taking medicine.

Spirit told Insider it directed the family to exit because the parents were not complying with mask mandates, which the company said was not captured on video and came before the widely shared video was filmed.

The airline said it was standard protocol in the airline industry to de-board the entire plane if there was an incident with a passenger. The company also said the couple initially refused to leave, adding that was why it made all the passengers deplane. If the family had agreed to deplane, Spirit said, the rest of the passengers would have remained on board.

Newsweek reported that after the family spoke with a supervisor and agreed to comply, it departed on that same flight.

According to another video of the event, the father in the incident said one flight attendant did not reboard the plane. Spirit said the crew was swapped out but did not clarify if that was standard protocol for scenarios such as this.

The Orlando police confirmed to Newsweek that they were called.

"Just before noon today, our officers were called to a general disturbance involving a Spirit Airlines flight scheduled to depart from the Orlando International Airport," a police spokesperson told Newsweek. "Upon arrival, officers saw that the flight was in the middle of de-boarding. Our officers stood by while Spirit Airlines resolved the issue."

Workers in the airline, food, and retail industries have been tasked in the past year with enforcing mask mandates among customers. Mask-wearing has become largely politicized since March 2020, with some Republicans driving a narrative that the COVID-19 pandemic is less severe than it seems.

Read the original article on Business Insider