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A South Florida woman was kicked off an American Airlines flight last week after a flight attendant determined the mask she was wearing featured “offensive” material.
Arlinda Johns was traveling to Illinois and boarded a plane wearing a mask that said “F*** 12,” as well as a “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt, she said in an interview with Local 10, which described Johns as an “activist.”
The station notes that “F*** 12” is an acronym for “F**k the Police.”
Shortly after boarding, a flight attendant reportedly asked Johns, who supports the “defund the police” movement, to cover up her mask, which she did. In a Facebook Live video, Johns later claimed, “Everything she asked me to do, I did.”
However, moments later, the flight attendant returned.
“She came back and stood over and said, ‘I’d better not see that mask,’” Johns told the station. “I said, ‘Leave me alone, lady.’ She stood there, she said, ‘Okay, I got you.’”
The flight attendant returned to the front of the plane. Within moments, the pilot headed back to the gate and Johns was asked to get off.
The local news outlet reported that Johns took a Facebook Live video of her being asked to disembark from the flight.
“This is what American Airlines is doing, and this is what happened to me,” she said in the video, according to the local report.
Airline officials reportedly told the station that Johns “refused to follow crew member instructions to remove or cover a face mask with offensive language and although the passenger initially complied, they later continued to display the inappropriate language. After arriving at the gate, the passenger was asked to deplane.”
Officials also said the airline was “looking into” the incident, adding that Johns would receive a refund on a portion of her ticket that she didn’t use. Johns said, however, that she hasn’t heard from American Airlines save for a response to one of her tweets. She also says she’s spoken to an attorney.
After being removed from the plane, Johns said she had to rent a car to get to her destination in Illinois.
“I think I got taken off the plane because I’m black,” Johns told Local 10. “I am an abolitionist. I believe that we need to defund and abolish the police.
The incident came as analysts and flight attendant union leaders are pushing the Trump administration to make mask-wearing mandatory aboard all commercial planes.
The head of the International Association of Flight Attendants union, Sara Nelson, even suggested during an interview with CNN on Sunday that the airlines were working together to preemptively ban people who advise others how to get out of wearing a mask aboard flights (including medical conditions).
What hasn’t been widely discussed, however, is mask ‘messaging,’ so to speak.
That said, what happened to Johns isn’t unique.
In 2019, Swati Runi Goyal of Key West, Fla., was asked by an American Airlines flight attendant to change her shirt or be removed from the plane. Her shirt said, “Hail Satan – Est. 666” and featured an upside-down cross, Buzzfeed News reported.
“It’s an ironic shirt,” Goyal told the outlet, explaining that the Satanic Temple is a recognized church that is non-theistic whose followers don’t actually worship Satan. “People usually laugh at it, or they give me a thumbs-up because they understand the meaning behind it.”
After getting settled in her seat, Goyal said a crew member approached her and her husband.
“He said, ‘Our crew has found your shirt to be offensive,’” said Goyal. “We initially just thought it was a joke. But he repeated the directive, and there was another female crew member who was behind him with her arms crossed looking very angry.”
According to American’s website, “passenger responsibilities” include a requirement to “dress appropriately; bare feet or offensive clothing aren’t allowed.”
The rules don’t describe what materials are considered ‘offensive.’ However, it appears as though crew members are allowed to decide.
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