Did Allegiant Remove A Passenger For Asking Crew To Mask Up?

On Monday, reports and accompanying footage emerged of how a man was supposedly removed from an Allegiant Air flight. The passenger was made to disembark before take-off from Punta Gorda, Florida, after repeatedly telling the flight attendant making the preflight safety announcement that she should put her mask on.

Allegiant Air
Allegiant Air removed a passenger from one of its flights after a dispute over a flight attendant’s lack of face covering. Photo: Getty Images

Social media reports have surfaced on how Allegiant Air removed an elderly passenger from one of its flights, leaving Punta Gorda on Monday. Apparently, there was an issue with a mask, which, these days, is not that surprising. Only, it seems the lack-of-mask in question was not that of the man being removed. This time, the cause for disruption in the matter of proper onboard mask etiquette was a flight attendant.

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Interrupting safety briefing

But, wait, if the cabin crew member was the one not wearing a mask, why was the passenger removed? Supposedly, because he asked her to put it on, which caused the crew to regard the man as disruptive. However, Allegiant says that this was precisely the case, as he repeatedly kept interrupting the preflight safety demonstration with his demand.

One video which picked up after the man’s requests supposedly showed one member of cabin crew – wearing a mask – asking the man to step off the plane. The user who posted the video to social media has since had it removed.

However, according to Newsweek, whose reporters saw the footage before it was taken down, the passenger, who was wearing a mask throughout the incident, reacted with disbelief and requested to speak to the pilot. After being threatened with law enforcement, the man left the plane while some of the other passengers protested his removal.

It is unclear if the man made the demands due to fear of his safety, or if the motivation for the disruption was more along the lines of “why do I need to wear one if you don’t.”

Allegiant Air A320
Allegiant says the man was interfering with the crew performing their safety briefing. Photo: Getty Images

FAA regulations on interfering with crew

According to Allegiant, it was not a question of a mere “ask” from the man. Rather, the airline says it was a repeated and aggressive disruption of the preflight safety briefing, for which the lead flight attendant had briefly lowered their mask while speaking into the PA. A spokesperson for Allegiant further told Simple Flying that,

“The safety briefing of course includes reiteration of our onboard face covering policy. That’s when the passenger became disruptive. This was not an ‘ask.’  Customer and crew safety is paramount. Interfering with a crew member providing safety instructions is a violation of FAA regulations.” 

Indeed, in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, on Aeronautics and Space, §121.580, “Prohibition on interference with crewmembers,” it is stated that,

“No person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember in the performance of the crewmember’s duties aboard an aircraft being operated under this part.” 

United Mask
The wearing or not of masks on board flights has become a controversial topic. Photo: United Airlines

Emotional debate

We have already witnessed a ton of controversy surrounding the mask policy or enforcing thereof of commercial airlines. As matters of public health and what some perceive to be their personal freedom collide, emotions run high. While some boast about thinking of clever ways to get out of wearing one, others berate carriers for not enforcing their measures strictly enough.

This is undoubtedly not the last we have heard in the saga of the onboard face coverings.  While “interfering with duties” can indeed be interpreted broadly, it could be helpful with comprehensive mask-specific regulation, so that flight attendants and passengers both would have a proper framework to which they could refer during disputes.