American Airlines has temporarily banned a passenger who they kicked off a flight Wednesday after he refused to wear a face mask.
Brandon Straka, a popular conservative activist, had just boarded a plane at LaGuardia Airport on Wednesday when a controversy erupted over his lack of a facemask. After arguing with multiple American Airlines personnel, he obliged their request to get off the flight. He was then rebooked on another American Airlines flight to Charlotte and then to Seattle.
American Airlines claims that Straka’s actions and statements were inconsistent throughout his journey.
“He boarded his LGA flight with a face covering, but subsequently removed it,” an American Airlines spokesperson told FOX Business. “When our team at New York’s LaGuardia (LGA) asked Mr. Straka whether he had a medical condition, he responded that he did not. Later in his journey, he gave our team a different answer. In addition, he boarded his flight to Charlotte (CLT) with a face covering, while later telling our team at CLT that he had a medical condition that prevented him from wearing one."
Straka said that he was initially just asked where his facemask was, and not if he had a medical condition.
It is clear American Airlines policy that passengers must wear face masks. The airline said in a late April press release that they would “require all customers traveling to wear a face covering (or mask) while on board the aircraft starting May 11.” Then earlier this week, the company strengthened the policy and said they “now may also deny future travel for customers who refuse to wear a face covering.”
Straka also said he was fed up with what he called conflicting messages from politicians about face masks and what is acceptable during the coronavirus pandemic.
"We have to close our businesses. We have to forego our paychecks. We have to wear a mask. We've been told it's imperative that we wear a mask at all times, we've been told it's imperative that we stay home," Straka told FOX Business. "And then I watch those same politicians, those same media sources, cheer on protesters by the thousands."
But Straka's stand didn't win him any allies on the flight. Astead Herndon, a reporter for the New York Times who was also on the flight, tweeted that the rest of the plane applauded when he left.
Herndon could not immediately be reached for comment.
American Airlines said they are temporarily banning Straka until face coverings are no longer required for customers.
“American Airlines thoroughly reviewed an incident on June 17 involving one of our customers, Brandon Straka,” the airline said in a statement. “As a result of this review, Mr. Straka will not be permitted to fly American, as he failed to comply with our stated policy and crewmember instructions.”
Despite the kerfuffle, Straka told FOX Business that he actually agrees with the principle that private businesses have freedom of association and can refuse service to anyone they want.
“When they asked me to get off the airplane, I didn’t throw a tantrum. I didn’t resist. It didn’t end up in a situation where the police had to force me off the plane,” Straka said. “I totally respected that it was their right to enforce, if on that particular day they decided to enforce this policy, I respected that.”