American Airlines removes passenger for refusing to wear mask—and bans him from future flights

June 19, 2020, 2:52 AM UTC

American Airlines Group Inc. removed a passenger who refused to wear a face covering and banned him from taking flights in the future, capping a week in which U.S. carriers vowed to step up enforcement of mask use.

Brandon Straka won’t be allowed to fly on American until face coverings are no longer required, the company said in an email Thursday. Straka, a conservative activist with about 400,000 followers on Twitter, posted a video Wednesday saying he had been kicked off his flight for not wearing a mask. He also accused American’s employees of intimidating him.

Straka’s ban validates a warning U.S. airlines made this week when they vowed increased vigilance in requiring mask use amid mounting concerns about new Covid-19 infections. United Airlines Holdings Inc. pledged to ban passengers flouting the rules, which exempt small children and people with medical conditions or disabilities that prevent them from wearing face coverings.

In its statement, American said it was “committed to protecting the safety and well-being” of customers and employees.

“We expect customers who choose to fly with us to comply with these policies, and if necessary, we will deny future travel for customers who refuse to do so,” the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline said. “Restricting travel is a step we take very seriously, and it will only occur after a comprehensive review of the facts of an incident.”

Straka didn’t immediately respond to a message sent through his website. In a tweet earlier Thursday, he said he had been “inundated with death threats, attacks on social media & email” because of the incident.

According to American, Straka boarded his flight from New York’s LaGuardia airport with a face covering but later took it off. When asked whether he had a medical condition, he replied that he didn’t, American said. Later, “he gave our team a different answer,” the company said.

American said it was refunding Straka for the remaining leg of his trip and any upcoming flights on the carrier.