A passenger responded to instruction to wear a mask during flight by smoking a cigarette onboard instead. That forced a flight diversion and arrest.
Balvir Singh was flying WestJet from Vancouver (YVR) to Toronto (YYZ) last Sunday on WS706. Reports indicate he became “unruly” during the flight and refused to put on his facial mask. After being admonished that a mask was obligatory, he responded by lighting up a cigarette and refusing to extinguish it.
Faced with his uncontrollable behavior, the captain opted to divert the flight to Winnipeg (YWG). On the ground, Singh was arrested by Manitoba’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He becomes the first Canadian thrown off a flight for refusing to wear.
Singh faces three charges of mischief and failing to comply with flight crew, which carry a fine up to C$13,000 (~$9,550).
On June 14, a flight from Vancouver to Toronto was diverted to Wpg due to an unruly passenger. The male lit a cigarette & refused to wear his face mask. Balvir Singh has been charged with Mischief & Failing to comply with Flight crew x3 (fines of up to $13,000). #rcmpmb
— RCMP Manitoba (@rcmpmb) June 18, 2020
After dropping Singh off, the flight continued to Toronto. WestJet said:
“We sincerely apologized for the delay and interruption to our guests’ travel plans who were affected by the diversion and unfortunate situation.”
That was diplomatic…
WestJet is not serving alcohol right now onboard, so that does not appear to be the problem.
I bring this story to your attention because it went beyond just wearing a mask. Instead, anger over wearing a mask seemed to trigger even more defiance, leading the man to smoke a cigarette onboard. That should not dampen our efforts to control the virus as best we know how, including by masks. But we should all be prepared for more stories like this as many are not responding joyfully to onboard mask requirements.