Face masks on flights: passengers who refused to comply

TORONTO — More than 1,500 travelers have refused to comply with wearing a face mask while flying, and hundreds of letters of non-compliance have been issued in 2021 as a result, according to updated data released by Transport Canada.

Fines were also issued to 30 passengers, according to the data. Transport Canada told CTVNews.ca in an email that monetary penalties between $700 and $5,000 were imposed on passengers in 2021.

CTVNews.ca previously reported that refusing to wear a mask was a leading cause of unruly behavior on flights in Canada. Incidents increased over the summer especially when air travel resumed. But data updated to January 17, 2022 showed October and November proved even worse for airlines dealing with passengers refusing to wear masks. A total of 1,594 incidents during flights were recorded in 2021, including 223 reports in October and 227 in November alone. Data showed that 108 passengers were asked to disembark after boarding due to non-compliance.

Notification letters were issued to 428 passengers, while another 501 letters of non-compliance were distributed, according to Transport Canada data. The agency said it takes a graduated approach to enforcement and a first offense could result in a warning letter. An “enhanced level of enforcement action” would be taken for subsequent breaches of the same offence, but spokesman Sau Sau Liu said first-time offenders don’t always receive warnings.

“Where an investigation finds evidence of aggravating factors, such as flagrant and repeated refusals to comply, combined with other inappropriate behavior such as disrespectful or abusive language on the part of the alleged offender , verbal or physical threats to employees, crew members or travel companions, the Minister of Transport can issue fines even if it is a first offence,” she said.

Law enforcement is called upon to intervene in “flagrant” violations where passengers are considered “unruly”. “In these circumstances, a monetary penalty may be imposed in addition to possible criminal charges,” Liu said.

A previous CTVNews.ca analysis of unruly passenger occurrences in 2021, as documented on Transport Canada’s Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System (CADORS), found that more than two dozen incidents involving masks had escalated enough to warrant a report for “unruly” behavior, but a representative from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) said the actual numbers are likely higher.

“There’s a lot of paperwork that happens when this kind of incident happens. So we know 100% that there is massive under-reporting,” Troy Winters, CUPE’s chief health and safety officer, previously said in a November interview. Canada’s largest union represents more than 15,000 flight attendants at nine Canadian airlines.

In a CADORS report, a flight from Calgary to Halifax carried a passenger who was reported to be likely intoxicated, not wearing a mask and pretending to sneeze on other passengers. The individual also threatened another passenger, according to the report. The traveler, labeled “unruly level 3”, was handcuffed and taken into custody upon arrival. Level 3 is defined by Transport Canada as “an incident where the safety of passengers or crew members is seriously threatened”.

WestJet, for its part, said in an email on Monday that it had issued travel bans against 163 travelers since initiating a “zero tolerance” policy on masks in September 2020. That figure represents less than 0 .01% of all WestJet passengers, he added. The bans last 12 months.

South of the border, the US Federal Aviation Authority received a total of 5,981 reports of unruly passenger behavior and 4,290 reports related to masks in 2021. A total of 1,081 investigations were opened last year, compared to an average of 182 opened each year between 1995 and 2020.

Although many of the most high-profile incidents of misbehavior during flights have occurred outside of Canada, a Sunwing charter flight in Cancun on December 30 from Quebec City made international headlines after videos emerged on social media showing passengers without masks, vaping and drinking during the flight. The incident is currently under investigation by Transport Canada.

About Derrick Hill

Check Also

Copping travels to Denmark for health summit

Alberta’s Minister of Health will travel to Denmark and the United Kingdom for a series …