American Airlines not enforcing its own mask policy: passenger

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If he’d known his seatmate wouldn’t be required to wear a mask, this passenger says he would never have boarded the plane.

After 55 days self-quarantined in California, Tony Scott decided to fly to Texas and quarantine with his son. “I haven’t seen him for like, six months, and I’m a consultant — I can work from anywhere,” Scott, 53, tells The Post. Asthmatic, African-American and with a history of lung issues, Scott says it was American Airlines’ mask-wearing mandate for passengers during the coronavirus pandemic that made him feel comfortable flying at all, and he still took the additional precautions of buying himself a first-class ticket and bringing extra masks on board with him.

But when he got on the May flight, he found his seatmate unmasked.

“She was having a snack — no big deal,” Scott says of his neighbor, whom he says was Caucasian and likely in her late teens.

American Airlines’ mask policy specifies that those who are eating or drinking, are young children or have a medical condition — but no one else — are given an exception from the mask requirement. But when the girl remained unmasked after finishing her snack, Scott decided to speak up. “I saw that she still hadn’t put on her mask, so I leaned over and said, ‘Do you need a mask? I have extra.’” She said she had one, and began watching a movie.

“That’s when I summoned a flight attendant,” he says, but the flight attendant told him masks are “not mandatory — it’s optional.”

Pulling up American Airlines’ app, Scott pointed out that, according to the airlines’ policy, clearly displayed on the app’s front page, masks are not, in fact, optional.

The flight attendant went to consult with her colleagues. Some 45 minutes passed. “They weren’t taking it seriously,” says Scott. When a different flight attendant returned, it was to tell Scott that children are exempt from wearing masks.

“I said, ‘She’s not a child, she’s a teen, and I would really prefer that she wear a mask,’” he says.

The male flight attendant then leaned down and asked the teen, “Sweetie, do you want to wear a mask?” The woman responded she did not.

“Technically, they didn’t even ask her to put the mask on. They just said, ‘Do you want to wear a mask?’ That’s a different question,” Scott says.

At this point, Scott asked to be moved, but his request was denied. The first-class cabin was full, he was told. Walking through coach on a bathroom visit, he estimates seats were also close to capacity, with most middle seats filled. But with both of the woman’s parents masked and sitting two seats behind Scott, he remains unclear as to why one of them couldn’t switch spots with their daughter. “They never said a word,” he says.

Once reunited with his son in Dallas, Scott tried to self-quarantine despite the two sharing the house. When his son soon developed a fever, they sought a COVID-19 test for him, but of the two clinics they visited, one lacked the test and the other would not give one to him because he was neither over age 64 nor experiencing symptoms beyond a fever. His son has since recovered from his mystery illness.

Scott — who is a longtime flier and an elite status member of the airline — complained to American that his flight showed the company was not honoring its mask policy at a time when doing so potentially put his life at risk. After repeated calls and an “investigation” by the airline, he was refused a refund but was offered 10,000 AAdvantage Miles as a courtesy, which he declined.

When reached for comment about the incident, American Airlines reiterated its mask-wearing policy to The Post.

“The safety and well-being of our customers and team members is our highest priority,” American told The Post via email. “American, like other US airlines, requires customers to wear a face covering while on board, and this requirement is enforced at the gate while boarding. We also remind customers with announcements both during boarding and at departure. Some passengers are exempt, such as young children and those with a medical reason why they cannot wear a mask. The policy also does not apply while eating or drinking.”

After taking to Twitter — and using the hashtag #FlyingWhileBlack — to share his experience, Scott says he was inundated with support and other horror stories about flying American during the pandemic. “Everybody had some sort of horror story about them not honoring the policy,” he says.

Ultimately, it is American Airlines and not the mask-refuser or her family with whom Scott takes issue. “My fear is they’re not going to address the issue, and they still have the same videos and messages everywhere, and to me that is absolutely misleading and egregious: They’re not honoring what they say they’re going to do,” he says. “As it stands today, they do not force people to wear a mask if they decline. Note, the policy is not disclosed to the public.”


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