Travel agency criticizes how American Airlines handled mask dispute on delayed NC flight
Travel company Breakaway Beach said it is disappointed in the way American Airlines handled a recent flight from Charlotte that was delayed a day after the airline said some passengers refused to wear masks.
The airline did not provide details on which passengers refused to follow the federal mask requirement, But it said on Tuesday that some passengers on the flight from Charlotte Douglas International Airport to Nassau, Bahamas, were “noncompliant” with the COVID-19 mandate and became “disruptive.”
Those passengers were asked to leave the plane, according to American. The flight, originally scheduled to leave CLT on Monday, was delayed until Tuesday, according to the airline.
But Breakaway Beach, which represents 47 high school graduates on the flight, said in a Thursday statement to the Observer their group was “blamed for the actions of a few individuals.”
American would not confirm to the Observer other news outlets’ reports that the group which caused the delay were high school travelers, but said the disruptive group included 43 people individuals and one chaperone.
“The handling of this situation by American Airlines was incredibly disappointing — of course, safety is an absolute priority and any passenger not abiding by aviation rules and regulations must be removed from an aircraft,” Breakaway said. “However, the act of one individual is not the responsibility of others, and the students that were abiding by the rules should not have had to endure this type of treatment.
“The group was treated in an improper and overly harsh manner, causing unnecessary stress and aggravation to the travelers and their parents from afar.”
The group was later allowed to fly to Nassau on the Tuesday morning flight, according to the airline.
Breakaway Beach explanation
The travel company, which specializes in senior trips for high school students, said that one or two passengers “acted in a manner that resulted in them being removed from the aircraft,” but did not clarify if that passenger was a member of the group.
“The actions of this passenger resulted in the entire group of graduates being labeled ‘unruly’ and ‘disruptive,’” the company said.
According to a new statement from American Thursday, multiple members of a group of passengers were “repeatedly non-compliant” with the mask requirements, were playing music with profane lyrics through a speaker and were “yelling and using foul language.”
Passengers were told that the aircraft was delayed due to a mechanical issue.
While the plane was delayed, some students “may have removed masks due to no air-conditioning/ ventilation, quite unbearable conditions,” according to Breakaway Beach.
The aircraft remained at the gate with the boarding door open and the jet bridge attached throughout the initial two-hour maintenance delay, according to American.
Passengers were later deplaned due to the mechanical issues to swap planes, Breakaway Beach said. When passengers began to reboard, the group of graduates were refused at the gate, according to the company.
The plane’s captain made the decision to deny the group boarding, according to American. At that point, the aircraft was delayed to remove baggage checked by the group from the plane.
The flight was delayed overnight after the baggage delay and additional delays meant the aircraft needed new crew members, according to American.
Breakaway Beach said that the group of teens was not provided any accommodation or meal vouchers. But American said all customers were given meal vouchers, but the group of high school graduates did not meet minimum age requirements to receive hotel vouchers.
All customers were offered 15,000 AAdvantage miles, according to American.
‘A little rowdy’
The travel company also claimed that “other passengers from the flight were hostile and aggressive with the group due to their perceived responsibility for postponing the flight.”
One woman, Jean Holgerson, told WHDH 7 News in Boston that her son was part of the group of teens onboard the flight. She told the news station the teens were frustrated, “a little rowdy,” but “still respectful.”
“It wasn’t this big standoff like everyone is portraying,” she told WHDH.
FAA aware of incident
Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration is aware of the incident and investigates all reports it gets from airlines, the FAA told the Observer in an email.
The FAA did not share additional details on what the investigation entails.
The travel company welcomes the investigation, Breakaway Beach President Eugene Winer said. And the company said it has shared video with the FAA that shows at least one passenger not wearing a mask who was not traveling with the group of Boston-area high school graduates.
The FAA has received thousands of reports of unruly passengers throughout the year, including about 2,475 reports of passengers refusing to comply with the federal face mask requirement.
And since Jan. 1, the FAA has proposed more than $682,000 in fines against unruly passengers, according to the FAA.