“I was shocked,” Chaya Bruck said. “My kids started crying. They didn’t know what was happening.”
Passengers on the Orlando-to-Newark flight stood up in front of the family, asking those around them to bomb customer service.
The 39-year-old Bruck was on his way home from a family vacation in Florida on Wednesday. Everyone at her party wore the required masks, except her young daughter.
“She has never worn masks these whole months,” she said. “I would never wear a mask on her. She’s a baby.”
Bruck said three crew members told her they had to put a mask on her daughter, and one of them happened to be on her outbound flight and had told the same thing. JetBlue needs masks for all passengers 2 years and older.
“I said I could try,” she said. “How then, shall I tie her hands and feet? How shall I get her? I took a mask and tried to put it in. She pulled it off.”
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Bruck said she was then told she had to get off the plane.
“I’m not a confrontational person,” she said. “I did not ask for it here. I just wanted to come home to New York.”
The family is still overwhelmed, and a JetBlue operator has apologized for that. But the company adheres to its policy, which was updated on August 10 and follows CDC guidelines, stating, “All travelers 2 years and older must wear full face cover over their nose and mouth during their trip.”
Bruck went through a policy that said small children were exempt, but that was from May. However, she wants crew members to be trained and is considering legal action.
“My children were traumatized,” she said. “I was traumatized, and it was so unnecessary.”
JetBlue made the following statement to WABC:
In these unusual times, our first priority is to keep crew members and customers safe, and we have quickly introduced new safety policies and procedures throughout the pandemic. Specifically, our facial coverage policy was most recently updated on August 10th to ensure that everyone wears a face covering – both adults and children – to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Children 2 years of age and older must wear a face mask, in accordance with CDC guidelines, which state “Masks should not be worn by children under 2 years of age.”
Customers will receive an email before their flight with the latest security protocols and face coverage policies. Our crew members are ready to assist customers at the airport and on board who need support. We have a flexible rebooking policy for those who are unable to meet this requirement, and customers who refuse to comply with these standards at the request of crew members will be checked for further travel accessibility on JetBlue.
This incident and another involving a young child who refused to wear a mask shows how airlines are struggling to balance safety with compassionate treatment of all their customers during the pandemic.
Last week, a Texas woman said Southwest Airlines boarded her family from a plane after one of the children, a 3-year-old with autism, refused to wear a mask. Alyssa Sadler said her son was overwhelmed because he did not want to touch his face.
All major U.S. airlines have mask rules and have banned at least a few hundred passengers who refuse to comply. Typically, the perpetrators are adults who claim that there is no government required to wear a mask – there is not; the Federal Aviation Administration refused to set one up, leaving it to the Airlines.
Sadler said she had a doctor’s letter outlining her son’s autism condition, but it did not help.
Southwest is among several airlines that recently tightened the mask rules by ending an exemption for people who claimed a medical reason for not covering their face. The Southwest president said last month that the change was made because passengers were uncomfortable seeing other people on board without masks.
Southwest spokesman Dan Landson said Thursday that the airline regrets all the inconvenience to the Sadler family. He said passengers 2 and up, who could not wear masks, would receive refunds and would be welcomed on the airline “if public health guidance regarding face covering changes.”
Airlines have adapted other pandemic safety policies such as cleaning aircraft and leaving some seats vacant to make more space between passengers.
On Thursday, Delta Air Lines announced that it will continue to block middle seats during the holidays and by at least Jan. 6. The Christmas season usually means packed flights, but it’s hard to know what flights will look like later this year. U.S. air travel throughout the summer season has been about 70% lower than a year ago.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)
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