I reported on 8/5 that JetBlue would change their policy on 8/10 to require all kids 2 and up to wear masks, but that wasn’t yet updated on their website. That post was based on this press release that they sent me.
It turns out I didn’t read the press release close enough. It actually says that “Customers two years and younger will not be required to wear a face covering if they cannot maintain one.” According to that a 2 year old would be exempt from wearing a face mask.
The NY Daily News reports that Chaya Bruck of Midwood was flying with her 6 kids on a return flight from Orlando to Newark yesterday.
I spoke with Chaya on the phone and she told me that she flew from Newark to Orlando with her kids on August 10th. Her husband remained in Brooklyn to work. A flight attendant named George was on that flight and was constantly policing her about her 2 year old needing to wear a mask, even while she was eating snacks.
She was booked to fly back yesterday on JetBlue flight 28 from Orlando to Newark at 1:15pm. She said that at the gate they announced that young children were exempt from mask requirements.
She says that as she walked on she passed the same flight attendant George, who started whispering to his colleagues as she boarded. Her toddler was eating a snack when George walked over with 2 other flight attendants and told her that her 3 year old needed to keep her mask on at all times.
She responded that her child was only 2 and said that she would try, but George insisted the child was 3. Chaya said the child will turn 3 in late September. She also said that the JetBlue site says that “Young children who are not able to maintain a face covering on their own are exempt from this policy.”
Even the original JetBlue press release said that children 2 and under would be exempt.
An Orlando based ground agent then came on the plane to ask her if she was going to come off the plane or have the whole plane deboard.
She notes that several other passengers on the plane stood up for her and shouted that it was absurd for a 2 year old to be kicked off a flight for not wearing a mask. But JetBlue stuck to the rules are rules and zero tolerance line and wouldn’t allow her to try to mask her child again before deboarding the whole plane and kicking her off of the flight.
Police were called to keep the peace and there were other passengers on the flight that argued against her being kicked off who were also kicked off the flight.
The scene on the airplane was chaotic:
The JetBlue agents said she was wrong about their policy, but she insisted it was on their website.
I was surprised to hear that the website had the wrong info, so I did some digging.
As Chaya said, the original press release did indeed say that 2 year olds were exempt from the mask requirement.
JetBlue’s current travel alerts section of their website shows that it was last updated yesterday at 2pm, but it doesn’t show what exactly was updated.
If you click on “Covering faces in public places is required” it currently says that “All travelers 2 years and older must wear a face covering over their nose and mouth throughout their journey, including during check-in, boarding, while in flight and deplaning.”
However I dug up this version of the JetBlue site from 2:34am yesterday morning from before her flight.
Chaya appears to be correct. Before her flight the website did say under the section “Covering faces in public places is required” that “Young children who are not able to maintain a face covering on their own are exempt from this policy.”
JetBlue’s original press release said 2 year olds were exempt and they forgot to update their website when the policy went into effect. Then at 2pm, after they unceremoniously tossed Chaya and her 6 kids from the plane, JetBlue went ahead and updated their site to say that kids 2 and older must wear a mask.
JetBlue appears to have blundered by not updating their website with the policy, especially if they changed that policy to include 2 years olds some 5 days after the press release. But changing the website and written policy after she was kicked off the flight is egregious behavior and JetBlue owes Chaya an apology.
Even if the website update timing was purely coincidental, she still should not have been tossed off the flight.
The JetBlue flight subsequently took off 53 minutes late. They wouldn’t return her checked bags and they told her to find a way to get them from Newark baggage claim.
Chaya wound up purchasing expensive last minute tickets on United flight 455, departing Orlando at 6:45pm. She says there were older kids on that flight without masks and nobody made a big deal about it.
She finally got to Newark around 9pm and then had to make her way to the JetBlue terminal to get her bags.
I’ve reached out to JetBlue media relations for comment and they responded with the following,
“During these unprecedented times, our first priority is to keep crewmembers and customers safe, and we’ve quickly introduced new safety policies and procedures throughout the pandemic. Specifically, our face covering policy was updated most recently on August 10 to ensure everyone is wearing a face covering – adults and children alike – to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Children age 2 and over must wear a face covering, consistent with CDC guidelines, which say “Masks should not be worn by children under the age of 2.” (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html)
Customers receive an email before their flight outlining the latest safety protocols and face covering policies. Our crewmembers are ready to assist customers in the airport and onboard who might need support. We have a flexible rebooking policy for those who are unable to meet this requirement, and customers who refuse to follow these standards after requests from crewmembers will be reviewed for further travel eligibility on JetBlue.
FYI – I’ve attached a sample of a check-in email that was sent to this customer. This policy has also been listed at jetblue.com/safety and jetblue.com/travel-alerts since August 10. Our travel alerts page is updated often and marks the same time stamp in each section. The policy has been accurately listed there since August 10, and was not retroactively changed in response to any incident.”
I responded to JetBlue that:
- Your 8/5 press release said ” Customers two years and younger will not be required to wear a face covering if they cannot maintain one.” This child was only 2.
- Archive.org shows that the JetBlue travel alerts page said at 2:34am yesterday that “Young children who are not able to maintain a face covering on their own are exempt from this policy.”
- JetBlue.com indicates that the change on the JetBlue travel alerts page was made at 2pm yesterday.
- While the JetBlue safety site currently says that “All travelers 2 years and older must wear a face covering.” It did not appear to say this on August 10th as stated. Archive.org shows in its last capture of the JetBlue travel safety page on 8/14 at 3:18pm that there was no information there about face coverings for customers.
- While the CDC does say that masks should not be worn by children under the age of 2, it does not state that a 2 year old needs to wear a mask. In fact it says that masks should not be worn by anyone unable to remove the mask without assistance, which likely includes 2 and 3 year old toddlers.
- I was unable to open the sample check-in email in the format sent, so I asked JetBlue to resend it to me in PDF format.
JetBlue responded with the following,
“I can’t speak to the accuracy of archive.org, only to say that the policy has been accurately stated on jetblue.com/travel-alerts since 8/10. The time stamp is updated every time a change is made to the travel alerts site for every section (notice they’re all the same). The press release was published on 8/5, the policy was amended on 8/10 and was communicated through customer channels.
I’m sorry, I do not have pdf versions of the email I provided you.”
I’ve never known archive.org to make a mistake, but JetBlue is claiming they are. Color me skeptical.
Interestingly, we have now seen these incidents on JetBlue and on Southwest last week, when they booted a family off a flight because their 3 year old son with autism was unable to maintain a face mask. These are airlines that market themselves as more friendly alternatives to the other US airlines. So much for that!
JetBlue needs to do the right thing and offer an apology and compensation for their actions and they should launch an investigation into everything that went wrong in this incident.
— DansDeals (@DansDeals) August 20, 2020
Have you had a mask incident on a plane? Post a comment below or email Dan@DansDeals.com