EXCLUSIVE: A New Jersey couple temporarily forced to deplane a Spirit Airlines flight departing Orlando, Fla., for Atlantic City accused the budget carrier of lying when it said they — and not their young child — refused to obey a federal mask mandate.
Ari and Avital Eisenberg, of Toms River, N.J., were on Monday flight 138 with their children — Rikki, 2, and Daniel, 7, who has special needs — after spending a Passover vacation in Florida. Avital is also seven months pregnant.
The couple told Fox News that a flight attendant kicked them off the plane because Rikki was not complying with the airline’s mask policy, which stipulates that passengers ages 2 and older must wear a mask.
According to a video posted on social media, a flight attendant is seen telling the family to get off the plane for “non-compliance.”
“I told you, noncompliance — you’ll have to get off. I didn’t want to do this,” says a flight attendant who was not the crew member who initially confronted the family.
“We’re wearing masks,” Avital Eisenberg says.
“She not wearing one,” the flight crew member says of the 2-year-old sitting on her mother’s lap eating yogurt. “The pilot wants you off.”
“She just turned two,” the mother says.
After some arguing, the flight attendant leaves and threatens to call the police.
“She just kept repeating that she needs me to deplane and I said im not going anywhere, I didn’t do anything wrong,” Avital Eisenberg told Fox News. “We tried to explain that we’re doing everything we can with the kids.”
Other passengers can be heard coming to the family’s defense, with one man saying he will make sure the family wears masks on the flight, while another woman says that other young children on the flight aren’t wearing masks.
The female flight attendant, who reportedly spoke to the family on behalf of one of her male coworkers, says “it’s not my choice” as the father argues that they also have a son with special needs on board with them.
Additional clips posted to social media reportedly show the family getting out of their seats along with other passengers after everyone was told they needed to disembark the plane.
A spokesperson for Spirit told Fox News that all passengers on the plane, including the family, reboarded after the company’s team in Orlando assured that the family would follow the mask policy.
The airline said the parents refused to wear masks and that its actions were not about the children. In response, the couple told Fox News the Spirit statement was “such a lie.”
“I have no words. Next level craziness. I understand if I gave someone attitude…but there was none of that. We were about to take off,” Ari Eisenberg said. “Everything was fine and all of the sudden someone comes over to us and asks us to deplane. We did comply they and nothing to say. I kept asking what didn’t we comply with they and nothing to say.”
Avital Eisenberg called the experience “traumatic” for her children.
“My son missed his medication window. Thank God he didn’t have a seizure. He was sitting there in a soaking wet diaper because I couldn’t change him during the whole thing,” she said. “My daughter is going crazy from all this it was a terrible terrible experience to go through let alone someone with a special needs child.”
It was first reported through several outlets that a male flight attendant who originally made the request was reportedly not allowed back on the flight and was seen being escorted off the plane by Orlando police officers. But Spirit Airlines told Fox News ” There is also no truth to claims that police became involved with or removed a flight attendant. Orlando police have stated publicly that, though present at the gate, they did not take an active role in this situation.”
A federal mandate issued by President Joe Biden in January requires that all individuals over the age of two must wear a mask on planes, trains, and buses. The order was recently extended by the Federal Aviation Administration due to cases of disruptive behavior remaining “far too high.”
According to the TSA, fines for violating the mandate can range from $250 for the first offense to up to $1,500 for repeat offenders.
Those exempt from the order include travelers under the age of 2, those with a disability who cannot wear a mask, or cannot safely wear a mask because of the disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and those for whom a mask would create “a risk to workplace health, safety, or job duty as determined by relevant workplace safety guidelines or federal regulation.”
The Orlando Police Department did not immediately return Fox News’ requests for comment.
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