A Frontier Airlines flight from Miami to New York’s La Guardia Airport was canceled Sunday evening after a large group of passengers, including several adults, refused to wear masks.
On Monday morning, the airline was charged with anti-Semitism for the treatment of passengers who are Hasidic Jews, as well as demands for investigations by the Anti-Defamation League of New York and other groups. Frontier held firm to its position that passengers had refused to comply with federal regulations requiring them to wear masks.
Some cell phone videos that have surfaced do not show the confrontation between the passengers and Frontier crew members, only the aftermath. The footage from the plane appeared to show members of the group wearing masks. Some passengers said the episode escalated because only one member of the group, a 15-month-old child, was not carrying a child.
Videos of passengers exiting the plane amid the chaos and taped by others on the flight have been posted on Twitter by the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council. In one video, a passenger says, “This is an anti-Semitic act.”
Another video showed a couple holding a maskless baby in a car seat when children heard crying, and one woman explained that the young children in her group, sitting in the back of the plane, had removed their masks to eat.
In a third video, a passenger says “This is Nazi Germany” as the couple and the small child walk up the aisle of the plane to the exit.
A Frontier Airlines spokeswoman said in a statement that “a large group of passengers have repeatedly refused to comply with the US government’s mask mandate.”
“Several people, including several adults, have been repeatedly asked to wear their masks and refused to do so,” said Jennifer de la Cruz, the spokeswoman. “Due to the continued refusal to comply with the federal mask mandate, refusal to disembark, and aggression against the flight crew, local law enforcement agencies were engaged. The flight was eventually canceled. “
But members of the group said they wore masks.
“We are law abiding citizens, law abiding people,” said Martin Joseph, who traveled with 21 members of his family, including his children and grandchildren. “We have young children. We understand that the mask must be worn and everyone must wear a mask and that is the law. We keep a million percent. “
Mr. Joseph said his daughter and her husband were sitting in the back row with their 15-month-old child and two other couples and their children. All are Hasidic Jews, said Mr. Joseph, although he added that one of the couples was not related to him.
March 1, 2021, 6:49 p.m. ET
He said a flight attendant asked his daughter to put a mask on her baby. She argued that her son did not have to wear a mask because of his age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires masks only for passengers who are at least 2 years old.
“Then they announced that all three couples would have to get off the plane in the back of the plane before they could take off,” said Mr. Joseph. “The babies were crying, the people were crying, the mothers were crying.”
Another passenger on the plane, Temima Stark, said she was sitting with her husband and child when the commotion started. She said she saw airline employees approaching passengers in the background. Everyone seemed to be wearing masks, she said, except for the baby who was eating.
As the passengers got off the plane, Ms. Stark, who was not traveling with the group, said she saw airline employees pulling each other up. Several other passengers interviewed on video reiterated the claim. Frontier Airlines did not comment directly on the allegation.
“The whole plane just went crazy,” she said.
A few minutes after disembarking, Ms. Stark said, the remaining passengers were ordered off the plane.
On Monday, the New York Anti-Defamation League called for a “full and transparent investigation” on Twitter, citing “obvious # anti-Semitic comments from the occupation or others”.
When asked about the allegations of anti-Semitism, Ms. de la Cruz, a spokeswoman for Frontier, said the airline is looking into “any situation that requires a passenger to be removed from a flight.”
“Like many other airlines,” she said, “Frontier has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to masks on our flights.” This becomes clear at the time of purchase, before and during the check-in process at the gate and on board the aircraft. “
Wearing masks and other public health measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus became a hotspot in the New York area during the summer as Covid-19 spread rapidly in parts of Brooklyn and Queens. The city’s health authorities said at the time they were particularly concerned about a significant increase in transmission between some of the city’s Hasidic communities. Similar tensions simmered in Israel.
When asked about the confrontation aboard the Frontier flight, Yossi Gestetner, founder of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council, said: “Regardless of what started this whole mess, people certainly blame airline staff for doing so unacceptable and needs to be addressed. “
“The airline wants the public to believe that 12 people, some of whom are unrelated other than belonging to the same ethnic group, decided to go to the airport and on the plane wearing masks and leave with masks on, as seen on videos however, to act together remove all masks while seated, ”he said. “It’s contrary to logic.”