A Maryland man was booted off a Southwest Airlines flight for not wearing a mask while eating Twizzlers.
“I, Avi Mandel, just got kicked off a plane because I wasn’t wearing my mask in between bites while I was eating,” the frequent flier from Baltimore County said in a video he took on the plane, WJZ reported.
“That’s so sad. That’s so wrong,” Mandel told the news outlet. “It was absurd. The way I was treated was absolutely absurd. It was crazy and it wasn’t fair.”
Mandel was waiting for the plane to take off from Thurgood Marshall Baltimore Washington International Airport for Fort Lauderdale on Sunday when he opened a pack of his frequent snack, WJZ reported.
A flight attendant told him he had to put his mask on “and kind of, like, ran away,” he said.
“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 masks in between bites,’” Mandel continued.
He said he didn’t think much of it at the time, but the plane returned to the gate, where a security team escorted him off.
Mandel said he remained calm and respectful, while other passengers stuck up for him.
“That is so wrong. He did nothing wrong. Wow!” passenger Stephanie Misiaszek said in the video he showed WJZ.
After he emailed Southwest, he found out a new federal mandate went into effect requiring passengers to wear masks at all times — including “in between bites.”
According to the Transportation Security Administration, passengers may remove masks while eating, drinking or taking medications but must put them on between bites and sips — and cannot leave them off for “prolonged periods.”
“If I knew this rule ahead of time, I would have happily listened, but I had no clue,” Mandel said.
“I think it could be handled a lot better, and I think the rule could have been placed better,” he said.
“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,” Mandel added.
A Southwest rep 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.”
Mandel was rebooked on the next flight to Florida the next morning, but said he won’t fly Southwest again anytime soon.
As for his choice of candy, he said: “Yeah, I’m still into Twizzlers. I’m still down.”