Man kicked off Southwest Airlines flight for not wearing a mask WHILE EATING candy
05/05/2021 // Ramon Tomey // Views

Southwest Airlines removed a passenger from one of its flights for not wearing a mask while he was eating candy. Baltimore County resident Avi Mandel claimed he was kicked off a flight to Florida due to a new federal rule by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

According to the federal rule, passengers like him now have to wear masks at all times – even when eating.

Mandel described his experience last April 18 in a video sent to WJZ-TV. "I, Avi Mandel, just got kicked off a plane because I wasn't wearing a mask in between bites while I was eating," he said in the footage, lamenting the treatment he received from Southwest. "The way I was treated was absolutely absurd. It was crazy and it wasn't fair."

According to the frequent Southwest flyer, he was waiting for his flight to take off for Fort Lauderdale Airport when the incident occurred. Mandel opened a pack of Twizzlers candy to snack on while waiting. A flight attendant then approached him, informing Mandel that he had to put his mask on – unaware that he was eating candy. The flight attendant immediately "ran away," he claimed.

A loudspeaker announcement to passengers then followed, saying that "everyone who's eating has to wear masks in between bites." Mandel said did not think much of the announcement at that time. However, the plane then returned to the terminal and a security team then escorted him off the aircraft.

Mandel remarked that he remained calm throughout the incident and other passengers stood up for him. He then showed footage of fellow passenger Stephanie Misiaszek saying "that is so wrong, he did nothing wrong" as he was escorted away. Nevertheless, Mandel insisted that the "embarrassing" situation left him with no choice but to leave the plane.


The incident shows mask mandates are spiraling out of control

Following the April 18 incident, Mandel emailed Southwest on the matter. He only found out after the email that a new federal mask mandate went into effect. According to the mandate, airline passengers must wear face masks at all times – including "in between bites" of food. Mandel commented: "If I knew this rule ahead of time, I would have happily listened, but I had no clue."

The Baltimore County resident continued: "I think it could be handled a lot better, and I think the rule could have been placed better. I always do follow the rules … but this was not a rule I knew of and it wasn't explained to me." He ultimately concluded: "Had I known, I obviously would have done it differently, but you got to tell someone the rule in order for them to follow it."

A spokesperson for Southwest said in a statement that the airline regrets "any inconvenience caused" by the incident. They reiterated, however, that "the face covering policy is communicated throughout the booking and check-in process, and it's the responsibility of [cabin crew] to enforce federal regulations."

Meanwhile, TSA guidelines saay that airline passengers can remove masks while eating, drinking or taking medications. But passengers are not allowed to go without a face covering for "prolonged periods" and must mask up in between bites and sips.

An April 30 press release on its website said the TSA extended its mask-wearing order until Sept. 13 of this year. Its initial mask mandate went into effect on Feb. 1 and was set to expire on May 11. (Related: STUPID-19: Newsom says Californians should wear a mask between bites while dining out.)

The mask order which was used as a basis for Mandel's removal from the Southwest flight appears to line up with a public health order by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Jan. 29 CDC mandate required Americans to wear face masks when traveling, according to Reason. The public health agency said federal, state and local authorities would enforce the order, which took effect Feb. 1.

Travelers who refuse to "mask up" may be removed from public conveyances and banned from traveling, aside from facing criminal penalties. But the CDC order also provided exemptions – such as when a person is eating, drinking or taking medicine.

Nevertheless, Reason Senior Editor Elizabeth Nolan described such mask mandates as problematic. She remarked that deputizing federal, state and local law enforcement to enforce mask-wearing orders opens up opportunities for harassment and abuse. Authorities are given a lot of leeway with how to enforce the rule and who to target.

Brown warned that both masked and unmasked people are in danger of any arbitrary enforcement. The reasonable duration of being mask-less when eating, drinking or taking medicine may differ for individual officers. In turn, people who remove their masks for these essential activities may find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

Visit to read more articles about mandatory mask orders.

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