MIAMI (VINnews/Sandy Eller) – A full flight of passengers heading from Miami to New York was forced to deplane after a heated allegedly incident involving a Chasidic couple and their unmasked 16 month old child.
Williamsburg resident Isaac Joseph said that his niece and nephew were wearing masks and seated in the back of the plane on Frontier flight 2878 heading from Miami International Airport to La Guardia on Sunday night with their baby. According to Joseph, just moments before the flight’s 7 PM scheduled takeoff, two members of the flight crew walked to the rear of the aircraft and told the couple that they had to get off the plane because their baby wasn’t wearing a mask.
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Frontier’s website advises that all passengers age two and up must wear masks that cover their noses and mouths, a rule that does not apply to younger travelers.
Joseph, who recorded several minutes of footage of the incident on his phone, said that there were approximately 20 members of his family on the flight, some of whom tried to intervene on behalf of his visibly pregnant niece and her husband.
“We offered to put a mask on the baby, but they said just get off,” Joseph told VIN News.
Efforts to speak to the pilot and the head steward reportedly proved fruitless and as the minutes ticked by, the atmosphere on the plane grew heated, with some passengers loudly accusing the flight crew of being anti-Semitic. Eventually, police officers arrived and the flight crew ordered all passengers off the plane, with several travelers who were not part of the large Chasidic group saying that the couple was being unfairly targeted.
“I have witnesses, people who heard them saying ‘let’s do this to the Jewish people in back’ and when they did it, saw them high fiving each other,” said Joseph.
As passengers returned to the terminal, Frontier tried rescheduling the flight. Joseph said that he was told that he would not be allowed to reboard because he took video on the plane.
“First, they said that the plane was rescheduled for 9 PM and as time went by and nothing happened, they said that a crew member didn’t feel safe and they couldn’t get someone else to replace them,” said Joseph.
Joseph and his family members are staying overnight in Miami and will be returning back to New York on Monday morning.
A statement issued by Frontier’s director of corporate communication Jennifer de la Cruz disputed Joseph’s account in entirety, saying that the problem stemmed from a large group of unmasked passengers, not a baby, and that the passengers in question displayed aggressive behavior towards the flight crew.
“The entire group that was refusing to wear face masks was told they needed to leave the aircraft,” de la Cruz told VIN News in an email exchange. “Their refusal to do so is part of what necessitated law enforcement involvement.
Social media lit up with comments on the incident, with Frontier passenger Mason Hakimi tweeting sarcastically, “@FrontierCare thank you for getting us stuck in Miami international airport because passengers ‘weren’t’ wearing masks when ppl clearly saw they were. Sounds like this is what you guys do (especially to certain populations of ppl) good job.”
“Here we go again,” tweeted Democratic district leader for the 48th Assembly District David Schwartz. “We’re getting tired of this. @FlyFrontier can you explain this nonsense? Your own rules state that children under 2 don’t need to wear masks. Trying to think what could be a possible reason for this…”
Political commentator and journalist Bethany Mandel expressed concern about the incident as well, tweeting, “We’re flying @FlyFronter @FrontierCare next month with a baby the same age. I’d like to see a statement about this being a mistake. Or I’d like a refund on my fare.”
Disturbing incident the last hour on a @FlyFrontier flight as staff told a Hasidic couple to get off because their 18 month old had no mask. Applause is heard as the couple started leaving. Travels say on camera that the applause came from staff who also cheered that “we did it.”