A frequent flier was removed from a Southwest flight before takeoff for eating Twizzlers without a mask on.
“I, Avi Mandel, just got kicked off a plane because I wasn’t wearing my mask in between bites while I was eating,” the Baltimore, Maryland resident said in a video he shot on board.
Mandel decided to eat some of his favorite snacks while he was waiting for his Fort Lauderdale flight to take off last Sunday. When a flight attendant told him to mask up, before scurrying off, he thought, “Oh, I guess she didn’t know I was eating.”
Then he heard an announcement over the loudspeaker that “everyone who’s eating has to wear masks in between bites,” and the plane returned to the gate. He said he didn’t think much of going back to the terminal until a security team came on board and escorted him off the flight.
Mandel stayed composed as he was being removed, but passengers can be heard sticking up for him on the video. “That is so wrong. He did nothing wrong. Wow!” One flier protested.
He emailed Southwest and they replied that he was booted for ignoring a new federal mandate that went into effect that required passengers to wear their masks between bites of food and sips of drinks.
“If I knew this rule ahead of time, I would have happily listened, but I had no clue,” Mandel commented. “I think it could be handled a lot better, and I think the rule could have been placed better.”
He noted that he always follows the rules on flights, but didn’t know the rule had gone in effect and it hadn’t been properly explained by the airline. “Had I known, I obviously would have done it differently, but you got to tell someone the rule in order for them to follow it,” he remarked.
Mandel rebooked his flight the next day, this time on a different airline. He said he won’t be flying on Southwest in the future. “It was absurd. The way I was treated was absolutely absurd. It was crazy and it wasn’t fair.”