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Canadian flight canceled after dispute over toddler not wearing mask

A father claimed the flight crew wanted his 19-month-old daughter to wear a mask, but the airline said they only needed his three-year-old to wear one.
Credit: AP
A WestJet airlines passenger plane, a De Havilland DHC-8-400 model, approaches Logan Airport in Boston, Thursday, May 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

A WestJet flight from Calgary, Canada, to Toronto was canceled on Tuesday when tensions between a family and flight crew escalated over a toddler not wearing a mask, reports claim.

Safwan Choudhry, a passenger on the flight, posted on Twitter claiming that the airline staff tried to force his 19-month-old daughter to wear a mask. However, WestJet said that wasn't the case and explained the problem was with his older, three-year-old child not wearing a face covering, according to the BBC.

Choudhry told the BBC that his daughter was eating a snack before take-off when a flight attendant asked for both children to wear a mask.

Transport Canada requires that all travelers over 2 years old must wear a mask or face covering due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Flight 652 was stopped and all passengers were ordered to leave the aircraft because of the disagreement.

"Several @WestJet crew members wrongfully citing @Transport_gc policy for enforcing my 19 months to wear a mask," Choudhry said in a tweet. "Eventually, the entire flight was cancelled & all passengers were removed from the plane."

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In a statement to CBC, WestJet said the perspective from the crew and airline agents were very different from Choudhry's claim.

"WestJet would like to clarify that there were two children, and we were not requiring the infant to wear a mask, but did require the other child, who is over age two, to wear one," WestJet spokesperson Lauren Stewart told CBC.

The crew asked the family to depart the plane, but they refused. The police were called to handle the situation, and Choudhry posted a video of officers speaking to his family while a child can be heard crying. BBC reported that by the time police had arrived, the child was wearing a mask.

"Due to the rapid escalation of the situation on board, our crew felt uncomfortable to operate and the flight was subsequently cancelled," the spokesperson said. 

WestJet told CBC that the family was traveling on employee travel passes and said those guests are held to a higher standard of behavior. The airline added that it will revoke the travel privileges for both the Choudhry family and the WestJet employee who provided the benefits.