American Airlines Boeing 737-800 aircraft
Nicolas Economou | NurPhoto via Getty Images
American Airlines is temporarily banning a customer who was kicked off a flight in New York this week for refusing to wear a face mask on board, a requirement on major U.S. airlines that aims to curb the spread of Covid-19.
American said crew asked the traveler to get off Flight 1263 at New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Wednesday after he wouldn’t put on a mask and that he complied with their request to leave.
The passenger, Brandon Straka, a conservative activist with close to 400,000 Twitter followers, declined to say why he didn’t want to wear a mask on board.
“To me, this is not a battle or a war with American Airlines,” he said. “When I was asked to get off the plane I got off the plane. I didn’t resist that I understand that it’s their rules, their policy.”
He tweeted on Wednesday: “I was just removed from my flight for not wearing a mask. 1st time this has happened. Not a federal law.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people wear cloth face coverings in “public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”
Airlines for America, a trade group that represents American, Delta, United and other carriers, on Monday said it would be “vigorously enforcing face covering policies, putting rigor around rules requiring passengers and customer-facing employees to wear facial coverings over their nose and mouth” to protect travelers and crew members.
American said in a statement that it reviewed the incident on board the flight, which later departed for Dallas/Fort Worth close to schedule.
“As a result of this review, Mr. Straka will not be permitted to fly American, as he failed to comply with our stated policy and crewmember instructions,” American said.
American’s “conditions of carriage,” which outline everything from procedures for oversold flights to identification requirements, states that the carrier can deny travel to a customer if they “attempt to interfere with the flight crew or refuse to obey instructions,” among other reasons. Young travelers and passengers with conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask will be exempt from that requirement, according to American’s website.
“We are committed to protecting the safety and well-being of our customers and team members, which is why we strengthened enforcement of our policy for required face coverings on board,” said American’s statement. We expect customers who choose to fly with us to comply with these policies, and if necessary, we will deny future travel for customers who refuse to do so.”
The airline said Straka would be allowed “to fly with us once face coverings are no longer required for customers.”