London-Bound American Airlines Flight Returns to Miami After Passenger Refuses to Wear Mask

·2 min read
American Airlines
American Airlines

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A London-bound flight was forced to return to Miami International Airport Wednesday night after a traveler aboard the plane refused to comply with the federal mask rule, American Airlines confirmed to PEOPLE in a statement.

Laura Masvidal, a spokeswoman with American Airlines, stated Thursday the passenger was added to the airline's internal refuse list pending further investigation.

"American Airlines flight 38 with service from Miami (MIA) to London (LHR) returned to MIA due to a disruptive customer refusing to comply with the federal mask requirement. The flight landed safely at MIA where local law enforcement met the aircraft. We thank our crew for their professionalism and apologize to our customers for the inconvenience," said American Airlines in the statement.

Mask mandates were put in place by major airlines and the federal government to help combat the spread of COVID-19 at the beginning of the pandemic. Passengers agree to an airline's terms of service when they purchase a ticket.

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According to WFOR-TV, Flight 38 was an hour and a half into its journey when the plane was forced to return because of a noncompliant female passenger. The outlet reported that the more than 100 passengers on the plane were not notified about why it had to turn back to Miami.

"We weren't given any instructions, just told that we had to go back and now we can't get our luggage," said a passenger per WFOR-TV.

Another passenger told the news outlet, "Disappointed. They wouldn't really say anything and I don't think they told the flight attendants anything because all they would say is there was an extreme incident and they had to turn around."

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WTVJ-TV reported that the passenger who refused to wear the mask was not arrested by Miami-Dade Police at the airport.

In September of last year, the Transportation Security Administration announced it would financially penalize travelers who refuse to wear masks. It remains unclear whether or not the passenger in this case will be fined.

As of Jan. 19, the U.S. is seeing an average of 753,990 new COVID-19 cases a day, according to The New York Times, and 158,638 Americans are currently hospitalized with the virus.

The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it will be distributing millions of free face masks across the country in another effort to combat the latest surge of cases and the highly contagious omicron variant.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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