As he was eating, a flight attendant requested that he put a mask on “and kind of, like, ran away.” he said.
“And I’m like, ‘I guess she didn’t know I was eating.’ Then I hear on the loudspeaker, ‘Everyone who is eating has to wear a mask in between bites’” Mandel said.
He recounted that he didn’t follow the instruction so the plane was taken back to the gate and he was removed from the plane by a security guard.
Mandel claims that he stayed calm and other passengers defended him.
“That is so wrong. He did nothing wrong,” passenger Stephanie Misiaszek said in the video shared with WJZ.
Following an email exchange with Southwest Airlines, he learnt there was a new federal mandate making all passengers wear a mask at all times, including when “in between bites.”
They cannot be removed for “prolonged periods”.
“If I knew this rule ahead of time, I would have happily listened, but I had no clue,” Mandel said.
He said that it had been poorly communicated and handled.
“I obviously would have done it differently, but you’ve got to tell someone the rule in order for them to follow it.”
A representative from Southwest said to WJZ in a statement that the airline regrets “any inconvenience caused, the face-covering policy is communicated throughout the booking and check-in process, and it’s the responsibility of the crew to enforce federal regulations.”