American Airlines Unloads Irate Passenger For Refusing To Wear A Mask

A passenger has become one of the first to be kicked off a plane for not wearing a face mask. American Airlines removed Brandon Straka from a flight on Wednesday after five staff members asked him to wear one. Mr Straka took to social media to express his outrage, stating that wearing a mask is not federal law.

AA at gate
On Wednesday, American removed a passenger after they refused to wear a face mask. Photo: Getty Images

Passenger refuses to wear a mask on AA flight

Brandon Straka has become one of the first people to feel the full force of American Airlines’ updated face-covering policy, after he was kicked off a plane on Wednesday. The 43-year-old right-wing campaigner had been on his way to a Trump Rally in Tulsa onboard flight AA1263 with American Airlines. However, things did not go as smoothly as planned.

Brandon Straka has boarded the plane at New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA) and had hoped to arrive into Dallas before moving on to Tulsa. While reports say that Brandon wore a facemask at the gate to board the plane, once onboard he removed the mask. This is a violation of American Airlines’ policy. It requires all passengers to wear a mask throughout their entire journey, or they will be removed from the aircraft. 

AA taxi
Wearing face masks is AA’s mandatory policy. Photo: Getty Images

Keen to enforce its regulation, five staff members approached Mr Straka to ask him to wear a mask. They included:

  • two cabin crew;
  • two customer service managers; and
  • the captain.

On each separate occasion, Brandon Straka refused to comply. He was even offered a mask from a flight attendant which he declined. As a result, the airline asked him to collect his things and disembark.

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Miscarriage of justice?

Once outside the aircraft, Mr Straka approached a member of American Airlines’ staff to report the incident. Mr Straka says that he was not under any federal obligation to wear the mask. He feels as though he did not have a choice in whether or not he wore a mask.

Passenger sits alone with face mask
There is no legal obligation for passengers to wear masks. Photo: Getty Images

Despite sharing a fictional conversation with a flight attendant on his Twitter before his flight, Brandon says that he was never asked about his eligibility to wear a mask. He says that he was never questioned on whether he had a medical condition and felt instead that cabin crew jumped to conclusions before requesting he leave the plane.

In a statement shared with Forbes, American Airlines said,

“Brandon Straka declined to wear a face covering. After he refused to comply with the instructions provided by the flight crew, our team members asked him to deplane.”

It also said,

“He claimed a medical condition.”

Passengers on AA flights are exempt from wearing face masks if they have a legitimate health concern. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) legislation protects passengers in the US from having to disclose details of their medical records.

American issues a policy change

Whether or not Branda Straka had a legitimate health condition, his frustration seemed to have more to do with his statutory rights. He said that he had no legal obligation to wear a mask. However, American’s policy requires him to do so. The disparity between airline policy and the law leaves a grey area about what advice passengers should follow. Legally, passengers are not required to wear masks. However, they could face sanctions if they don’t.

AA parked
AA has now changed its policy to deny future boarding. Photo: Getty Images

Mr Straka also expressed that he was not aware that American Airlines had changed its policy. As of May 11th, the airline said it would refuse boarding to those who don’t wear masks. On June 15th, it issued a new statement saying those who do not wear masks could be denied boarding in the future as well.

It said in a statement,

“American, like other US airlines, already requires customers to wear a face-covering while onboard aircraft. American already enforces this policy at the gate and will deny boarding to customers who don’t comply. American now may also deny future travel for customers who refuse to wear a face covering. American made this change after working in conjunction with Airlines for America on an industrywide response.”

American Airlines in flight
Mr Straka was booked on another flight but the case is still under investigation. Photo: Getty Images

American Airlines is now investigating the case with Mr Straka and told Simple Flying,

“Mr Straka stated to our airport team members that he would comply with our policies and was rebooked on a later flight. Our team is reviewing this incident, and we have reached out to Mr Straka to get more information.”

What should you do?

Despite the inconsistencies between the law and airline policy, passengers should still follow airline regulation. While it may not be a chargeable offence not to wear a mask, it will undoubtedly help you trip if you wear one. You’ll experience fewer delays and will avoid the risk of missing flights in the future.

Do you think American Airlines took appropriate action on this occasion? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.