Four teenagers who were booted from a Allegiant Airlines flight bound for Sacramento, California, over alleged mask violations have disputed the airline’s claims of what occurred.
Allegiant Airlines said in a statement that the group of teens, who were a part of a youth basketball team flying from Mesa, Arizona, on Feb. 8, did not comply with flight attendants’ repeated requests that they wear their masks properly.
“The party referenced refused to comply with federal regulations requiring face coverings throughout travel. After repeated and disruptive refusals to comply, the party was deplaned from the flight,” the airlines said in statement. Cellphone footage shows the teens being escorted off the flight by Mesa police officers.
But the boys and at least one witness told CBS Sacramento that the alleged violation didn’t occur.
“We had our masks on, yes sir,” David Schuhmeier, one of the teens booted from the flight, told the CBS Sacramento TV station.
“She was more so saying that we had the masks on underneath our nose, so it wasn’t fully on over our whole face,” Corey Brown said.
The boys said that within 15 minutes of sitting down, they were approached by flight attendants for the third time, this time by a woman who asked them to leave the plane in a manner Schuhmeier described as rude.
“She profiled us as a football team. Maybe because we look like somebody else or dress like somebody else, or maybe just had the same hair,” Brian Buchanan said. “I think that was wrong to just profile us as somebody who we aren’t.” Chris Holley is the fourth teen booted from the plane. The Sacramento Bee newspaper reports that two teammates who weren’t being told to leave joined their four companions in solidarity when they were forced off the flight.
During the commotion as the boys attempted to exit the plane, some of them called their parents.
“We were scared. We didn’t know what was going on, so we called our parents too,” Schuhmeier said. “They were telling us that they can’t say anything to our parents.”
The police department said it received a call from an Allegiant supervisor who said there were several passengers who were violating mask regulations.
Not only do the teens claim they complied with mask regulations, but a passenger on the flight who was sitting next to the teens, Amy Flanagan, also defended the boys.
“I did not hear anything disruptive, disrespectful,” Flanagan told the TV station. “They weren’t doing anything that made me think that warranted them getting kicked off. I think it was just really disturbing honestly.”
Kiondra Phipps, the mother of one of the teens, expressed frustration over why the parents weren’t notified about what happened. “You’re telling me that because somebody’s mask slipped below their nose, that they have to be taken off the plane completely?” Phipps told the TV station. “Sixteen- and 17-year-olds? And you don’t tell their parents? You don’t care what happens to them? That doesn’t happen to people that aren’t brown.”
According to Sacramento community activist Berry Accius, the teens were left stranded at the airport, and Allegiant didn’t refund the families for their tickets.
“The teens’ basketball coach was still in the area, and he picked them up at the airport,” Accius said.
Accius added that he was surprised to hear the boys were kicked off the plane because they are good students and don’t get involved in disruptive behavior.
The teens made it back home to Sacramento by plane Tuesday. The families of the teens plan to file a lawsuit against Allegiant regarding the incident.