Gas mask-wearing passenger removed from flight amid coronavirus panic.
A gas-mask wearing passenger sparked panic in the moments before his Houston flight and was removed from the American Airlines plane amid heightened fears over the coronavirus outbreak in China, which has prompted some travelers and commuters to cover their faces for fear of contracting the illness.
A photo shared on Twitter by passenger Joseph Say shows the man, also sporting a black beanie and sweatshirt, with his face completely obscured walking down the aisle of flight 2122 from Dallas Thursday evening.
“Immediately, people start talking in the back of the plane,” Say told KTRK.
“You couldn’t see his face. You couldn’t identify any features on him. People were worried he had sneaked something onboard and that he had the mask for his own safety.”
When asked by a flight attendant to remove the face mask, the man refused, prompting airline staff to call security.
By the time the passenger was escorted from the plane and the incident resolved, the flight had already been delayed by almost an hour.
American Airline officials told the news station the man was later rebooked onto another flight to Houston.
“My gut reaction was that he was probably worried about the coronavirus and had put on the gas mask as overkill kind of protection,” Say said.
As of Saturday afternoon, the coronavirus had claimed the lives of 259 people in China. The number of confirmed cases there has climbed to 11,791 and officials on Saturday announced the eighth case confirmed in the United States.