- Canadian airline WestJet canceled a flight following a disagreement about whether a toddler needed to wear a mask.
- Safwan Choudhry said the airline tried to force his 19-month-old daughter to wear a face covering, even though the rule only applies to children over 2 years of age, the CBC reports.
- The airline disputed that account, telling Business Insider in an email: “It is important to clarify that WestJet did not request the infant under the age of two to wear a mask,” but that it did require the 3 year old to wear a mask.
- WestJet ultimately deplaned passengers after it deemed the environment too unsafe to fly.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
In the age of coronavirus, disputes over mask wearing have become as commonplace as the face coverings themselves. But it’s not every day that a flight is canceled altogether because of it.
Canadian airline WestJet said it scrapped a Tuesday flight from Calgary to Toronto after a family wouldn’t obey a rule that all passengers over 2 years old must wear masks, the CBC reports. The details of the dispute are rather fuzzy, with WestJet and Safwan Choudhry, the passenger involved, offering contradicting accounts of what happened.
Choudhry, who was flying with his wife and two daughters — aged 19 months and 3 years — said his family followed all the regulations, according to the CBC. Choudhry told the outlet that airline staff tried to force his 19-month-old to put on a mask, even though she was under the cutoff for mask wearing on Canadian flights.
“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,'” he told the CBC.
Choudhry said he and his wife tried unsuccessfully to get a mask on the infant, who cried and eventually vomited. It was then that a flight attendant told Choudhry that the police would be called and that he and his family would need to get off the plane, Choudhry told the CBC.
Police arrived and insisted that the child wear a mask or the family would need to leave the plane, Choudhry said. Shortly thereafter, the flight’s captain announced that WestJet would be evacuating the flight for security and safety reasons.
Even after police viewed each family member’s ID, determining that the infant was less than 2 years old and resolving the mask issue, the flight crew felt it was unsafe to fly due to how other passengers were behaving, the CBC reports.
“Due to the rapid escalation of the situation on board, our crew felt uncomfortable to operate and the flight was subsequently cancelled,” a WestJet spokesperson told Business Insider in an email.
WestJet said it was Choudhry’s older daughter that was required to wear a mask, not the younger one. Choudhry said his 3-year-old child complied with regulations.
“It is important to clarify that WestJet did not request the infant under the age of two to wear a mask,” a spokesperson said, adding that the incident occurred “due to non-compliance of the parents to place a mask on their older child who is over the age of two.” Choudhry’s family “did not comply after multiple requests,” the spokesperson said.
The airline also said that Choudhry’s family was traveling with employee passes offered through the company’s employee travel privileges. The family and the WestJet employee who provided the passes will both have their privileges revoked.
A spokesperson apologized to guests affected by the cancellation and said that the airline was able to rebook most passengers on other flights.
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