WestJet flight canceled after dispute over whether toddler should wear a mask

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WestJet says it canceled a flight from Calgary to Toronto early Tuesday after a family refused to obey a rule that all passengers over two years old must wear masks.Passenger Safwan Choudhry said staff were trying to force his 19-month-old daughter, who is underage for this settlement, to wear a mask, but WestJet said it was his three-year-old eldest daughter , which was of concern.

A WestJet spokesperson confirmed that flight 652 had been canceled, adding that the flight crew had access to a guest manifesto that specifically states which guests are under two years old, as they are booked as infants.

Choudhry said her family followed the regulations and her younger daughter was identified as a baby on her boarding pass and her older daughter wore a mask.

But WestJet said the airline’s crew and agent accounts differ from Choudhry’s.

“WestJet would like to clarify that there were two children and that we were not requiring the baby to wear a mask, but we did require the other child, over the age of two, to wear one,” said the WestJet spokeswoman Lauren Stewart in an email. .

WestJet has a zero tolerance mask membership policy, the airline said, in order to comply with a Transport Canada regulation that requires all travelers aged two and over to wear face masks during flights.

Choudhry said he was disappointed with the airline’s response and wanted an apology.

Flying with his wife, 2 young girls

WestJet said the family were traveling on employee passes and said those guests are held to a higher standard of behavior.

“We are disappointed that this issue ultimately resulted in a flight cancellation for all passengers on board,” Stewart said in an emailed statement.

She apologized to customers affected by the canceled flight and said the airline had found flights for most of them.

Stewart said parents and guardians are made aware of the mask requirement and staff try to “seek to understand any situation that may exist.”

“If the parents / guardians are not compliant or are unwilling to comply with our requirements, we will apply our policy,” she said.

Choudhry was flying with his wife and two daughters, Zara, 19 months old, and Zupda, 3 years old.

He said there was no problem checking in, but after sitting down and just before the plane took off, several WestJet crew members approached his wife and said said both children had to wear a mask.

“It started with my toddler and once we put a mask on her they turned to my 19 month old baby and said, ‘Every person on the plane has to wear a mask or the plane can’t take off, ”he told me.

“We were surprised to learn that our 19-month-old daughter had to wear a mask,” he said, adding that he did not realize until later that the child was not required to wear a mask. mask according to Transport Canada rules.

He said he and his wife tried to force a mask on their youngest daughter’s face, to no avail.

“Of course, being desperate to get home, we – although there is no such policy – chose to comply until she cried hysterically, with the crew watching over us, until she threw up, at which point they told us you all needed to get off the plane. “

Police are responding at Calgary airport after a dispute over whether a child should wear a mask who saw a flight to Toronto canceled. Transport Canada regulations state that only children over two years old should wear masks. (Submitted by Safwan Choudhry)

Choudhry said after the child vomited, a flight attendant told him police would be called and threatened his wife with arrest.

Minutes later, police arrived and said the child would have to wear a mask or the family would be removed from the plane. Choudhry said that at this point other passengers stood up to express their anger at the situation.

Police confirmed that she had been called to report a dispute and to keep the peace.

Choudhry shared a video with CBC News that shows masked police officers talking to passengers on the plane, and frustrated passengers can be heard screaming as a child cries. Another video shows police officers standing in the driveway, his eldest daughter wearing a mask and sitting with his wife, and his youngest daughter sitting with him, unmasked.

“As you can see in the video, my three-year-old is already wearing a mask and calmly watching cartoons,” he said.

“Within minutes, the flight commander said ‘for safety and security reasons we are evacuating everyone from the flight,” he said. “We felt horrible that now this entire plane was evacuated. ”

Choudhry said after the plane was evacuated, officers asked for each family member’s ID card – that’s when police realized the child was under. two years, he said.

In another video provided by Choudhry, a policeman tells him that the police spoke to the crew and fixed the mask issue, but the behavior of the rest of the passengers left the crew feeling unsafe. to fly.

“I was shocked,” said the witness

Another passenger, Marian Nur, witnessed all the interaction.

She said that at no time did Choudhry or his wife raise her voice while interacting with the flight attendants, and that she saw the family doing their best to comply with instructions.

“I was so shocked the parents never raised their voice, they never got mad at the attendants, they were just trying to reason with them,” she said, adding that she felt the answer of the airline “was just unnecessary.”

Nur said she believed the family was potentially mistreated because of their race, so she started recording the incident on her phone. She said a flight attendant first asked her to stop the recording, then asked the police to have Nur arrested when she refused – police told the flight attendant he it was not their responsibility to prevent Nur from filming.

“It was about a toddler not wearing a mask, and you felt the need to get off the whole plane?” There was a woman on the plane trying to join her mother on her deathbed. It was just frustrating, very, very upsetting, “Nur said.

Choudhry said since the flight was canceled, WestJet had not contacted him or his family at all.

WestJet said due to privacy concerns, it was currently unable to share information about the incident.

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