**Update: 09/09/20 @ 17:45 UTC – A WestJet spokesperson has shared further details about the incident; details below.**
Face masks have been the topic of intense debate in the last few months. Most major airlines require passengers to wear a mask on their services. However, there are usually exceptions when it comes to minors. Yesterday, a WestJet flight from Calgary to Toronto was canceled amid a perplexing situation between crew and a family traveling with two children.
Traveling with family
One Mile At A Time reports on the accounts of Safwan Choudhry, a passenger traveling on WestJet flight 652. His wife and two daughters accompanied him. The oldest child is of the age of three, while the youngest is only 19 months old.
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WestJet follows Transport Canada’s mask policy that anyone over the age of two needs to wear a mask. So, as per the rules, the oldest of the two children is required to wear the covering while the youngest would be excused. Choudhry claims that he and his wife managed to get the oldest to wear a mask. However, crew also wanted the infant to adopt one.
Trying to resolve the issue
The family was surprised about this request, but since they were holding up the flight, they tried to do as requested. Nonetheless, their attempts went in vain as expected.
“It started with my toddler and once we got a mask on her, they turned to my 19-month-old infant and said, ‘every person on the plane has to wear a mask or the plane can’t take off.’ We were surprised to learn our 19-month-old daughter needed to be wearing a mask,” Choudhry said, as reported by One Mile At A Time.
“Of course, being desperate to get home, we — despite there not being such a policy — opted to comply until she was crying hysterically, with the crew watching over us, until she threw up, at which point they told us you all need to get off the plane.”
Following these reports, WestJet stated that its employees did not require the infant to wear a mask. Instead, they needed the other child to wear one. A spokesperson for the airline said that these guests were flying on employee buddy passes offered through its employee travel privileges, not on a purchased ticket.
The carrier said these passengers are accountable for their behavior on WestJet aircraft and they did not comply after multiple requests. Therefore, the company will take away the travel privileges of these guests, along with the employee providing the benefits.
The situation escalates
One Mile At A Time’s report shares that after the infant vomited, staff mentioned that they were calling the police. Additionally, they also allegedly threatened Choudhry’s wife with arrest. Subsequently, when police arrived, they told Choudhry that his youngest daughter needed to wear a mask.
Other passengers onboard sympathized with the family and stood up for them. However, after a few voiced their frustrations out loud, the captain made an announcement asking everyone to leave the plane due to safety and security.
Earlier today my family endure the most horrific & dehumanizing treatment onboard @WestJet plane. My wife was threatening to be arrested & forcibly removed unless my daughters, 3 yrs & 19 months would wear a mask. While my 3yrs wore her mask, the 19 months old was hysterical. pic.twitter.com/MHnaTnKgCU
— Safwan Choudhry (@SafwanChoudhry) September 9, 2020
The police eventually asked the family for identification and finally realized that the infant was under two years old. So, they informed the crew that she didn’t need to wear a mask due to her age. However, the employees didn’t feel safe due to the backlash of the other passengers. Subsequently, there was a cancellation to the flight.
Following the incident, one of the passengers said that they were shocked as the parents didn’t raise their voices or get angry with the crew. Regardless, the situation significantly escalated, leaving several people frustrated.
Altogether, this incident sounds like it was blown out of proportion as it could have been resolved more effectively. The statements are showing considerably different viewpoints. Nonetheless, amid these challenging times, cooperation between crew and passengers is more important than ever.
Simple Flying reached out to WestJet for comment on this incident but did not hear back before publication. We will update the article with any further input.
What are your thoughts about this event on one of WestJet’s services? How do you feel about how the crew responded? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section.