On Friday, a mother publicly complained that United Airlines booted her family off a plane and allegedly banned the family from flying on the airline ever again after her 2-year-old daughter refused to wear a mask. Despite the girl’s obstinacy, her father held her mouth with his hand to prevent the spread of liquid particles and kept trying to place the mask over her nose and mouth.
On Saturday, the video went viral. Many prominent conservatives, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) expressed outrage over the video. United told PJ Media the company is working to rectify the situation.
“We just got kicked off the flight because our 2-year-old would not put on a mask, and we tried,” Colorado mom Eliz Orban said in the viral video. She said United booted her family off of a plane from Denver to Newark. “And they’re sending all of our bags, and [her daughter]’s carseat, to New York. And we’re banned from United forever because a 2-year-old would not put on a mask.”
The video goes on to show the girl’s father struggling with her to put the mask on. In a show of obstinacy familiar to any parent of a toddler, the girl repeatedly refuses, putting her hands in front of her face. Frustrated, the father resorts to holding the mask in his hand over his daughter’s face.
In the video, a flight attendant orders the family to exit the aircraft.
“In what universe does this make any sense?? A two-year-old child? WATCH this video,” Cruz tweeted while sharing the video. “This isn’t keeping anyone safe. It’s just arbitrary & nonsensical. And infuriating.”
In what universe does this make any sense??
A two-year-old child?
WATCH this video. This isn’t keeping anyone safe. It’s just arbitrary & nonsensical. And infuriating. https://t.co/kXGGbP81Ak
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) December 12, 2020
“This is unbelievable… and infuriating,” journalist Megyn Kelly tweeted.
PragerU condemned the flight attendant’s behavior as “UNBELIEVABLE,” noting that in the video, United “kicks couple off airplane & bans them for life because their TWO YEAR OLD child resists wearing a mask despite their best efforts to comply. IT’S TIME to stand up and fight this draconian nonsense–please share!”
United spokesman David Gonzalez told PJ Media that United is investigating the incident and is working to make things right.
“We are investigating this specific incident and have made contact with the family. We also refunded their tickets and returned their car seat and bags,” Gonzalez told PJ Media. While his statement suggested United admits some form of fault, he went on to defend the general policy.
“The health and safety of our employees and customers is our highest priority, which is why we have a multi-layered set of policies, including mandating that everyone onboard two and older wears a mask,” Gonzalez added. “These procedures are not only backed by guidance from the CDC and our partners at the Cleveland Clinic, but they’re also consistent across every major airline.”
In this case, the issue seems to have been less the general policy, which the family tried to follow, and more the zero-tolerance manner in which the flight attendant applied it. Even if the policy itself is rock-solid, commonsense would dictate some lenience for parents struggling to hold a mask on an obstreperous 2-year-old girl. My own 18-month-old has proven herself quite a lovable handful at times, and I can imagine the tantrums will likely get worse in the next six months.
The coronavirus pandemic is hard enough on children (and their parents) as it is without self-righteous elites taking a zero-tolerance stance against people who make a good-faith effort to comply with the rules.
The full details of the story remain cloudy and the flight attendant’s actions may be more justified that the video suggests. However, from the evidence available, this episode appears to echo the kind of self-righteous sermonizing that Americans hear from hypocritical political leaders. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.), for instance, infamously attended an indoor dinner party at the upscale restaurant The French Laundry with lobbyists and California Medical Association executives without a mask in sight. He just issued a strict lockdown that will prevent multi-household gatherings through Christmas.
Thankfully, it seems United is working to make this situation right.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.