On Wednesday’s American Airlines flight AA3573 from Key West to Miami, passengers missed connections after a 40 minute delay caused by a flight attendant kicking off a mother and her crying two year old who wouldn’t keep their mask on.
The whole planeload of passengers was offloaded, and when another passenger expressed frustration the flight attendant threatened to have her kicked off too for ‘smelling like alcohol’. On a 7 a.m. flight. Where both that passenger and flight attendant were wearing masks. The American Airlines slogan is caring for people on life’s journey.
There’s a federal mask mandate requiring passengers two years and older to wear masks in airport and on flights. Before that it was a requirement at most major airlines (Delta allowed exceptions for young children.) Masking is not optional for two year olds, although how an airline enforces the rule is effectively at their discretion. It seems that this crew handled it in about the worst possible way.
According to an American AAdvantage Executive Platinum member who shared the story to Facebook,
The lady was trying to lug her carry on bag, the baby and the car seat all onto the plane, the baby kept crying, and Of course….here it comes…..baby didn’t have a MASK ON……as she boarded..[the flight attendant] aggressively scolded the mom about the baby’s mask. …the mom stopped mid aisle fumbling over and over to try and get the mask on this crying baby.
All flight attendant did to assist was say “ma’am you need to step off the plane”….the clearly overwhelmed mom exasperated kept saying “Im trying, Im trying”. Flight attendants response was appalling “If she (baby) cant wear a mask then she shouldn’t travel with you.”
…[Another passenger] got up and offered to help the lady carry the car seat and she got the baby’s mask on and proceeded to her seat a few rows behind me. ..I hear [the flight attendant] say, “she better have that mask on, if I go back there an its not on, Im tossing her off this plane”.
The baby stops crying when drinking from the bottle, and is allowed to be maskless while doing so, while starts crying when the bottle is taken away. A gate agent tried “to de-escalate the situation” with the “angry flight attendant.” Eventually the pilot came out and tried “talking to flight attendant” but eventually an announcement was made that everyone would have to get off of the flight, and the woman and her two year old weren’t allowed back on.
Some readers are thinking at this point, “good – the crying baby was removed.” But it’s a sub-50 minute flight, which was delayed nearly that long, and most passengers on this route are connecting. And the single mom and her toddler had been trying to fly American Airlines since Saturday but due to irregular operations and full flights had finally been rebooked onto the flight that became an issue.
As the Executive Platinum passenger deplaned, she says, she told the flight attendant “You should be ashamed of yourself. A crying baby, really?”
That was it…I didn’t say anymore to her, just kept walking off the plane……mumbled to [husband] a bit more about how we were going to miss our connection and that we should just stay here.
Once every one was off and back in the terminal (including another poor lady in a wheel chair that had to walk up and down the ramp and extra time each way now barely making it). Another girl was crying that she was going to miss her connection and ultimately miss her brothers funeral (she had a double connection to somewhere out west – and said she barely scraped the money together to get this flight).
…[When the plane re-boarded] I walked toward my seat again, passing angry flight attendant…I just shook my head in disgust. She proceed to march over to my seat, as I got situated and said in a clearly confrontational voice….”Do you have a problem?” ..she repeated it over and over, and then I finally said “yes”.
She called over first gate attendant immediately and said that I was threatening her and that “she should have me kicked off the flight too…she again says “Do you have a problem?” I didn’t want to answer…because YES I did have a problem with her behavior but NO I didn’t want to delay the flight any further for the other passengers on the flight.
..[W]hen I didn’t answer she angrily exclaimed to the gate attendant whom she had called over .”Do you SMELL ALCOHOL, I SMELL ALCOHOL.” ..This was a 7am flight….we left our hotel at 5am..we were packed and tucked into bed by 7pm..Also, she had a mask on, an N95 Mask (maybe a double mask) and Bart & I were fully masked up as well…Again she asked if I had a problem and was I going to be quiet and behave?…I said “fine”. She again repeated the question and said “Say Yes or No”. Knowing I was about to be holding up the plane further and Bart prodding me to just say what she wanted….I reluctantly did. She said “Could you repeat that” as if she wanted to rub it in that she again relished so much power over peoples travel ability. I repeated the answer to her as she wished, as I thought about the poor girl crying in the back of the plane waiting to get to her brothers funeral. She strutted back up front like a peacock and flight proceeds to take off.
According to an American Airlines spokesperson,
“Two customers were removed from American Airlines flight 3573 prior to departure from Key West (EYW) for failing to comply with the federal face mask requirement. After agreeing to comply with the face mask requirement, the customers were rebooked for travel on the next available flight to Dallas / Fort Worth (DFW) and completed travel later that day.
We are reviewing this incident and a member of our team has reached out to the customers to learn more about their experience.”
There seem to be far more mask confrontations on American Airlines than other carriers. That may partially be a function of carrying more passengers, and doing so at lower average fares, than some of their competitors. But it also appears to be a function of how cabin crew react to mask issues. United Airlines seems to have fewer passenger confrontation and, likely because of de-escalation work done after the David Dao incident, tends to just ‘write up’ noncompliant passengers rather than kicking them off aircraft or diverting flights.
Surely that manner of addressing mask non-compliance is superior to removing a two year old, delaying a flight, and causing numerous passengers to miss connections. That’s especially so since the issues were occurring on board the aircraft, with HEPA air filtration, and when young children have represented less of a threat throughout the pandemic. A couple of months younger and the child wouldn’t have been required to wear a mask at all.
Meanwhile, the very next day:
— Joseph Minor (@UTDJoe) January 21, 2022