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Passenger removed from plane for not wearing mask between food bites, unaware of federal mandate

A man was kicked off Southwest Airlines for not putting his mask back on in between bites of Twizzlers candy.

Published: April 30, 2021 12:53pm

Updated: April 30, 2021 3:29pm

A frequent flier from suburban Baltimore was removed from a Southwest airline plane for not wearing his mask between bites of candy.

The passenger, Avi Mandel, was waiting for his plane to depart from Thurgood Marshall Baltimore Washington International Airport en route to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He opened up a package of his Twizzlers and was soon approached by a flight attendant who told him to put on his mask.

"And I’m like, 'Oh, I guess she didn’t know I was eating.' " Then, I hear on the loudspeaker, 'Everyone who’s eating has to wear masks in between bites,' " Mandel told local CBS affiliate WJT-TV.

The plane returned to the gate promptly, and Mandel says he didn't think anything of it until the security team arrived to escort him off. 

"I, Avi Mandel, just got kicked off a plane because I wasn’t wearing my mask in between bites while I was eating," he said. "It was absurd. The way I was treated was absolutely absurd. It was crazy and it wasn’t fair."

In a bystander video, other passengers can be seen sticking up for the Mandel, with one woman exclaiming. "He did nothing wrong, wow!"

Mandel emailed Southwest after the incident and learned that a new federal mandate requires passengers to wear a face covering "in between bites." The Transportation Security Administration also says that masks can be off only while taking a sip or bite and can't be off for "prolonged periods."

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