A Canadian dad has slammed an airline after a ‘dehumanising’ row over whether his toddler should wear a mask.
Safwan Choudhry’s WestJet flight was cancelled and he claims he was threatened with arrest after he struggled to put a mask on his 19-month-old toddler.
But the airline claims the drama was actually over his three-year-old girl.
Mr Choudhry had been flying with his wife and their two children, 19-month-old Zara and three-year-old Zupda, on Flight 652 from Calgary to Toronto when the fracas erupted.
According to CBC, the airline said it cancelled the flight after tensions escalated when a family on board refused to obey a rule requiring all passengers aged over two to wear a face covering.
However Mr Choudhry told Canadian media his family had complied with regulations, and that other passengers hurled racist and Islamophobic abuse during the incident.
He claims his older daughter was wearing a mask, and his younger daughter was identified as an infant on her boarding pass.
He claimed after being seated and just before the plane took off multiple crew-members approached the family and said both children needed to be wearing masks.
Mr Choudhry said they put a mask on the eldest girl. But when they asked them to put a face covering on their youngest or the plane couldn’t take off, it sparked a disagreement.
He said at the time he didn’t know that his toddler wasn’t required to wear a mask under current laws, but he had been surprised to be asked.
He claims he and his wife tried to force a mask onto the toddler, but to no avail.
Mr Choudhry told CBC: “Being desperate to get home, we — despite there not being such a policy — opted to comply until she was crying hysterically, with the crew watching over us, until she threw up, at which point they told us you all need to get off the plane.”
Footage he shared that was taken on the plane captures her crying hysterically as people shout.
People can be heard yelling”bulls***” and “beat it” as two masked police officers argue with the couple a few rows ahead from where another passenger is filming the confrontation.
Another passenger, Marian Nur, witnessed the incident and told CBC she backed Mr Choudhry’s account and that she was “shocked” by their treatment.
She claims the couple never once raised their voices, and she saw the family trying their best to comply with the mask instructions.
Ms Nur said she filmed the incident because she was disturbed by their treatment, and was worried the family were potentially being mistreated because of their race.
She told CBC: “This was about a toddler not wearing a mask, and you felt the need to deboard the entire plane? There was a woman on the plane trying to get home to her mother on her deathbed. It was just frustrating, very, very upsetting.”
Mr Choudry tweeted his account of the confrontation along with footage taken from several rows back on Wednesday, calling the experience “the most horrific and dehumanising treatment.”
He wrote: “My wife was [threatened] to be arrested & forcibly removed unless my daughters, 3 yrs & 19 months would wear a mask. While my 3yrs wore her mask, the 19 months old was hysterical.
“Several @WestJet crew members wrongfully citing @Transport_gc policy for enforcing my 19 months to wear a mask. Eventually, the entire flight was cancelled & all passengers were removed from the plane…”
“While the sudden shocking decision by @WestJet to cancel the entire fight moments before take-off caused some passengers to hurl racist & Islamophobic remarks at my family, we are incredibly grateful and humbled by the overwhelming support & love from a majority of the passengers.”
He added: “We wish to extend our sincere regards & prayers for the passengers who had to endure any form of discomfort & hardship, we’re glad to learn that most passengers have made it to their destination. We are dearly touched by all messages from various passengers throughout the day.”
WestJet disagreed with his account, telling CBC: “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.
Its spokeswoman added that WestJet has a zero-tolerance policy and follows law requiring all passengers aged two or over to wear the face coverings on flights.
In an updated statement, WestJet said its staff were asking the parents to mask the older child.
“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.
“Due to the rapid escalation of the situation on board, our crew felt uncomfortable to operate and the flight was subsequently cancelled.”
It added that the family were flying on employee travel passes which meant they were held to a higher standard of behaviour by crew on board flights.
Mirror Online has approached WestJet for comment.