This week a man wearing a Trump mask on a Southwest flight was kicked off the plane. Several instances have taken place with conservatives and masks on aircraft; are conservative flyers being targeted or are they attention-seeking?
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Southwest Trump Mask Passenger Incident
Matthew fairly posted about a Southwest Airlines passenger that was kicked off a flight for not wearing his mask which prominently displayed “TRUMP.” The passenger stated he was in compliance as he was eating mixed nuts and drinking coffee which Southwest is clear that those eating or drinking do not have to wear their masks.
— Grant AZ 🇺🇸 (@Grant503) October 13, 2020
The passenger may have been abusing this policy. Witness accounts diverge, some saying he wasn’t wearing his mask properly when it was on, other passengers around him stated he was, in fact, in compliance.
The woman that recorded the video of the incident is a podcaster and interviewed the passenger which Matthew shared yesterday. He noted that the passenger was honest that he was not wearing his mask properly though did not indicate whether he was otherwise wearing his mask consistently.
Others Have Occurred
This Spirit Airlines encounter involving a neck gaiter felt he was targeted for wearing an American flag gaiter. Spirit was pretty clear, as was the agent that gaiters are only approved if they are doubled or the passenger is wearing a mask underneath. It’s not my belief that the passenger was targeted for wearing a patriotic face covering, but rather that it was out of compliance.
Eating and drinking policy exceptions have been known to be abused. An Easy Jet passenger was criticized for slowly eating one can of pringles for an entire five-hour flight save a trip to the lavatory. United has cracked down on those drinking coffee for hours on end. The eating/drinking waiver clearly needs some clarification.
Setup/Attention-Seeking or Targeted
Some are certain setups, in particular, one comes to mind. When this passenger, a conservative author, was kicked off he was refusing to wear his mask and recorded the interaction. At the time he claimed a health exemption, then later recanted, ultimately finding himself banned from American the next time he tried to fly with them. He was trying to cause an issue as opposed to quietly complying with the regulations and finding himself persecuted.
It’s also hard to ignore that masks have been a lightning rod for the right and those that express conservative views have been targeted even prior to the pandemic. This is one example from an Alaska Airlines flight where it wasn’t the airline staff that targeted a conservative but rather another passenger. According to the video, it doesn’t seem like the conservative passenger was at fault.
I don’t think there is a mass conspiracy to expel open or expressive conservatives from public life. One flyer sporting a Black Lives Matter shirt was removed from a flight due to his mask using an expletive. It would seem, at least in the case of the conservative author and the Spirit passenger with an American flag neck gaiter that they were seeking controversy.
In the case of the Southwest incident, it seems to me that the passenger may have felt they were in compliance (especially based on the other passengers around him, but the podcaster recording it may have been seeking attention.
It doesn’t seem clear that conservatives are being unfairly targeted for their political views. Some may be grandstanding for attention or to make a political statement. However, in the case of the Southwest passenger, it doesn’t appear to me that he was intending to take a stand. Airlines have struggled with clearly stating and enforcing their position regarding COVID-19 service changes and protocol. Whether it’s trying to police very slow coffee drinkers, the variety of face coverings available, masks with obscene statements, or how to make a two-year-old keep a mask on – the carriers need to do better at making their policies clear.
What do you think? Are conservatives being targeted or rather are these incidents examples a political statement? What should the policy be for masks on planes? What are the limitations?