Canada WestJet flight cancelled after row 'over child not wearing mask'

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An internal Canadian flight was cancelled after a heated dispute over children wearing masks.

Video footage shared on social media shows the moment police officers boarded a WestJet flight bound for Toronto from Calgary. It followed an exchange between airline crew members and a family on board.

Eventually the entire flight, set to arrive in Toronto on Tuesday, was told to get off the plane before it could take off.

Passenger Safwan Choudhry was travelling home to Toronto with his wife and their daughters aged three and 19 months.

Police boarded the flight amid the mask dispute 

Transport Canada rules require any person over the age of two travelling on a plane to wear a mask. Younger children are exempt.

The family claim that they complied with requests from crew to make their three-year-old wear a mask, and have insisted that they were also asked to put a mask on their younger daughter.

Mr Choudhry told the BBC that the 19-month-old became “basically hysterical” and struggled to breathe when his wife attempted to place a mask on her face.

He said that the child became so upset she vomited.

WestJet has disputed the family’s claims. The airline has stated that its crew members had only asked the family to put a mask on their three-year-old, as it is has a “zero tolerance” mask policy, but that its staff had not asked the younger child to wear one.

Footage shows the tense atmosphere on the plane. A child can be heard crying loudly as a masked police officer tells Mr Choudry his family must get off the plane, with passengers interjecting with comments in support of and against the family.

The officer can be heard explaining that while the mask issue with the older child had been “resolved”, the “behaviour of the other passengers left the rest of the crew feeling unsafe”.

A WestJet statement says the flight was cancelled because following the “escalation of the situation on board”, which saw police arrive, crew members no longer felt comfortable operating the flight.

The airline said: “Due to non-compliance of the parents to place a mask on their older child who is over the age of two, our crew informed the adults of the regulations we are required to follow.

“Our crew requested the presence of the authorities after the guests refused to comply with Transport Canada’s interim order and subsequently refused to deplane the aircraft.”

It continued: “Due to the rapid escalation of the situation on board, our crew felt uncomfortable to operate and the flight was subsequently cancelled.”

Mr Choudhry told the BBC: “It’s unlike anything I have ever witnessed, let alone experienced.

“So many people were put through so much grief because of a lack-of-understanding on part of the policy.”

One passenger, Marian Nur, told CBC: “I was so shocked, the parents never raised their voices, they never got angry with the attendants, they were just trying to reason with them,”

No charges have been filed.