(CBS NEWS) — Passengers aboard an American Airlines flight to the Bahamas spent an unexpected night in Charlotte, North Carolina after unruly passengers refused to comply with a federal mask mandate.
The incident — which came during one of the busiest travel weeks of the year — is only the latest involving passengers refusing to comply with safety measures aboard planes during the pandemic.
The disruptive group of about 30 high school students from Boston was catching a connecting flight in Charlotte to Nassau, according to local media outlet WSOC-TV. The flight was originally scheduled to leave Charlotte about 9:30 a.m. on Monday, but was delayed due to a mechanical problem and switched to another plane, WSOC-TV reported.
According to American, Flight 893 was preparing to depart when the group disregarded several reminders by crew members of the face-covering policy and became disruptive to other customers. The passengers involved were asked to exit the aircraft, a spokesperson for the carrier told CBS MoneyWatch in an email.
All passengers aboard the plane were given hotel vouchers, with the flight delayed overnight before leaving for Nassau on Tuesday morning. Those who had refused to wear face masks ultimately agreed to comply with the policy and were allowed to continue their journey aboard a different flight.
One passenger, Christina Randolph, vented about the experience. “All they had to do was follow the rules, put the mask on, sit there. No smart-mouth comments. And they couldn’t do it,” she told WSOC-TV. “Well, I’m a nurse, and it’s really, really hard to get time off work. So when you finally get time off, you really want to be somewhere you want to be.”
The increase in disruptive and dangerous behavior on the part of some air travelers has prompted appeals on behalf of flight attendants, who’ve been physically assaulted by passengers for asking they comply with rules including keeping one’s seat belt on.
“This past weekend, one of our flight attendants was seriously assaulted, resulting in injuries to the face and a loss of two teeth,” TWU Local 556 President Lyn Montgomery wrote May 24 in a letter to Southwest CEO Gary Kelly.
The Federal Aviation Administration has received more than 3,000 reports of unruly passenger behavior since the start of the year. More than 2,300 of those reports involve passengers refusing to wear masks.
The Transportation Security Administration at the end of April extended its face mask requirement at airports, on commercial aircraft, buses and commuter rail systems until Sept. 13.