A man was kicked off from a Southwest Airlines flight for not wearing a mask while eating Twizzlers and wants to share his story in the hopes things will change.
According to the WJZ CBS report, Avi Mandel from Baltimore County was a frequent Southwest flyer until his flight Sunday out of Thurgood Marshall Baltimore Washington International Airport.
Just eating a box of Twizzlers will make your flight this horrible, one minute Avi Mandel was minding his own business on a Southwest Airlines plane before takeoff this weekend and eating a box of Twizzlers — and the next minute, he was kicked off the Florida-bound flight.
Mandel told the station he got hungry and opened a pack of Twizzlers while waiting for the flight to take off — and naturally, when one eats, a mask makes that kind of awkward. So he removed his mask.
Then a flight attendant told Mandel he had to put his mask on, WJZ said, and he recalled that she “kind of, like, ran away. And I’m like, ‘Oh, I guess she didn’t know I was eating.’ Then I hear on the loudspeaker, ‘Everyone who’s eating has to wear a mask in between bites.'”
Mandel said he didn’t think much of it at the time. But the plane returned to the gate, and a security team came to escort him off the plane, he said. He said he remained calm and respectful and other passengers stuck up for him.
Mandel showed a video of passenger Stephanie Misiaszek, who said, “That is so wrong. He did nothing wrong, wow.”
Mandel said he knew he had no choice but to leave the plane and described it as embarrassing.
After departing the plane, Mandel appeared on a video clip saying, “I, Avi Mandel, just got kicked off a plane because I wasn’t wearing my mask in between my bites while I was eating.”
Mandel told WJZ he was rebooked on the next flight to Florida Monday morning but won’t fly Southwest again any time soon.
“It was absurd,” he told the station. “The way I was treated was absolutely absurd. It was crazy, and it wasn’t fair.”
Mandel added to WJZ that “there was no warning of it, there was no explanation, there was nothing. It was just a matter of, like, ‘I don’t like you; get off the plane.'”
After he emailed Southwest, the station said he learned that a new federal mask mandate went into effect in February requiring passengers to wear face masks at all times — including “in between bites.”
“If I knew this rule ahead of time, I would have happily listened, but I had no clue,” Mandel told WJZ.
The Transportation Security Administration told the station that airline passengers can remove masks while eating, drinking, or taking medications — but they must put them on between bites and sips and cannot leave them off for “prolonged periods.”
Mandel maintained to WJZ that the rule that got him kicked off the flight wasn’t addressed beforehand.
“I think it could be handled a lot better, and I think the rule could have been placed better,” he told the station. “I always do follow the rules. I’m on their plane, I get it. But this was not a rule I knew of, and it wasn’t explained to me. I didn’t see it anywhere at that point, so to me, it wasn’t a rule that I was breaking. 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.”
A Southwest spokesperson told WJZ in a statement that while the airline regrets “any inconvenience caused, the face-covering policy is communicated throughout the booking and check-in process, and it’s the responsibility of their crew to enforce federal regulations.”
Watch it here (Actual Footage of the Viral Video): Youtube