I’m a bit late in getting to this story, but in an unbelievable display of arrogance, selfishness, and entitlement a group of teenagers forced an American Airlines flight delay by refusing to wear masks. Or maybe not. As more facts emerge, more questions are also emerging about the widely-reported incident. Wherever the truth lies, there was certainly no shortage of bad behavior onboard.
Teenagers Delay American Airlines Flight Or React Reasonably To The Initial Delay?
Many mainstream outlets reported that a group of teenagers on a high school graduation trip from Boston refused to wear masks, forcing a flight delay. While video shows at least one kid wearing his mask improperly, upon further digging the issue appears to be a bit more complicated.
The group was headed to the Bahamas via Charlotte (CLT) on American Airlines. Specifically, the teens were booked on AA893 from CLT to Nassau (NAS) on Monday. A mechanical delay occurred onboard the 737-800 after the plane had boarded and was waiting to depart.
Hours later, another aircraft was found and the passengers were directed to another gate, but the Captain ended up denying boarding to the entire group of students. An American Airlines spokesperson noted:
“Due to non-compliance with federal face mask requirements, disruptive behavior and failure to adhere to crew member instructions, the Captain made the decision to deny members of the group boarding on the replacement aircraft.”
One witness onboard claimed several students refused to wear masks and 75-80% were being “terrible kids.” Others reported (and American confirmed) the students:
- played music loudly with explicit lyrics
- used profane language
But Breakaway Beach, a company specializing in student travel that organized the trip, argues that the entire group of teenagers were cast as “unruly” and “disruptive” over the actions of a few members of the group.
It also conceded that “some” graduates may not have worn masks, but clarifies that it was due to the extended mechanical delay, not due an act of civil disobedience:
“Some passengers including the students may have removed masks due to no air-conditioning/ventilation, quite unbearable conditions.”
The mechanical delay was followed by a further delay because the students’ bags had to be offloaded. Once that was done, it became too late for the flight to depart and arrive before passport control closed in Nassau. Consequently, the flight was delayed until morning.
The students, along with all the other passengers, were assigned hotel rooms, but the students purportedly could not check-in to their rooms because they were under 21. Breakaway Beach stepped into book hotels and secure meals for them, noting that 70% of the group was above 18. AA never less stated that the teens were not able to “meet check-in requirements at local hotels.”
American Airlines added:
“We expect our customers to comply with our policies when they choose to fly with us, and we take action when that is not the case.”
But whatever that “action” was, the teens were allowed to fly to Bahamas the following morning. One reason may have been that had they not been allowed onboard, their trip would not have occurred: subsequent flights to Nassau on American Airlines were booked full for days. Another may have been lobbying from Breakaway Beach not to punish the entire group over the actions of some members.
The students are now demanding an apology (beyond the 15,000 miles that American gave to every passenger on the plane). They want American Airlines to compensate for missing the first night of their vacation.
While I don’t think entire groups should be punished for the actions of a subset of that group, sometimes that is inevitable, especially if only one chaperone was present (as was the case here). I don’t blame the captain for throwing off the entire group if, as witnesses claim, the majority of the students were acting out poorly. Forget the masks: playing loud music, yelling, and swearing are reasonable grounds for throwing someone off a flight.
But is the story as simple as a group of students organizing a mass resistance to the mask mandate? No.
What do you think should have happened to the students? Did American Airlines handle the incident in the right way?