HONOLULU (KHON2) — A Hawaiian Airlines flight from Honolulu to Seattle was diverted Thursday afternoon, Sept. 23, after a passenger refused to comply with the federal mask mandate.
According to a Hawaiian Airlines spokesperson, a passenger on Flight HA22 refused to wear a mask and caused a disturbance to other passengers.
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The incident happened approximately two hours after the flight departed Honolulu at 1:05 p.m.
Flight attendants, along with an off-duty pilot, were able to de-escalate the situation. However, the captain elected to divert the flight out of an abundance of caution.
Local authorities met the aircraft upon arrival at 5:53 p.m. A new departure time will be determined.
Flight HA22 is the second flight the airlines had to call back in less than 12 hours.
A Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant was assaulted by a passenger Thursday morning as it departed Honolulu for Hilo at 7:30 a.m. Flight HA152 turned around about 15 minutes after liftoff.
A passenger sitting nearby who wanted to remain anonymous said the flight attendant was passing out beverages and made his way back down the aisle when the passenger jumped up and punched the flight attendant. Click here for the story.
So far this year, Hawaiian Airlines has banned or denied boarding to 98 passengers. While there are individuals who do not make it on the plane, there are others who do not cooperate once they are on board.
“We still have incidents where people are just wearing their face mask below their nose or improperly until a flight attendant walks by and that aggravates the other passengers, and it causes a difficult situation,” said Jaci-Ann Chung of the Hawaiian Airlines flight attendants union. “So it’s been difficult through this pandemic and things have certainly peaked because of it.”
The Hawaiian Airlines flight attendants union said crew members always had a huge responsibility in the air, but now more than ever with more reports of unruly passengers.
“Deescalation is a major part of what we do, because we don’t want things to escalate on the plane. So we do anything we can, and mostly it’s talking and listening to our passengers to find out what the issue really is,” said Chung.
Chung said she is not aware if any flight attendants have let the profession due to these reoccurring incidents, but said airlines do provide options for staff.
“We do have a liberal contract, and I think that some people tend to take leave just to get a little bit of rest from the work that we do,” Chung said.
Officials are asking travelers to keep in mind that these are federal mandates. They must be followed, and flight attendants are just trying to do their job.
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“Most people expect that we’re just serving beverages or taking care of the comfort, but really we’re there as safety professionals and that’s the most important thing to know or recognize about flight attendants. We all have to coexist in this tiny tube up in the sky, but our hope is that we can continue to bring our passengers back and forth safely,” Chung said.