American Airlines said Sunday that they will investigate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) after a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee operative snapped a photo of Cruz on board a flight Sunday.
Cruz, who was clearly holding a hot drink in a cup, was not wearing a mask as required by airline regulations.
The operative, Hosseh Enad, surreptitiously snapped the photo of Cruz Sunday morning as Cruz was seated aboard an American Airlines flight. Enad claimed Cruz was “refusing to wear a mask,” though he did not note whether Cruz made any statements to that effect to the flight crew or other passengers.
It is also not clear whether the flight crew or other passengers spoke to Cruz directly about his mask (or lack thereof).
The photograph shows Cruz holding a drink cup.
— Hosseh (@hossehenad) July 13, 2020
Enad also tweeted a screenshot of American Airlines regulations requiring masks on board all flights to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
— Hosseh (@hossehenad) July 13, 2020
Social media users quickly pointed out that American Airlines has an explicit exception in its rules for eating and drinking, and Cruz was clearly enjoying a beverage.
“Your face covering may be removed to eat or drink,” the regulations say, “but please put it back on when you’re done.”
Enad responded by saying that Cruz could have worn a mask and simply undone “one side to take a sip and put it back on,” because he was “taking time” drinking his coffee. The American Airlines requirements do not say that passengers must replace their masks between sips and swallows, nor do the rules put a time limit on how long a passenger can take drinking a beverage.
Cruz’s office pointed out the obvious in a statement — that the Senator was enjoying a cup of coffee on his flight.
“Senator Cruz wears a mask when traveling and practices social distancing where possible,” the statement noted. “Consistent with airline policy, he temporarily removes the mask while eating or drinking. Yesterday during his flight he removed his mask to drink and put it back on afterward.”
A spokesperson for @tedcruz says the Senator put his mask back on after he finished his drink. The statement does not mention anything about why the Senator was seen without a mask the terminal. @wfaa https://t.co/49z8fceEAM pic.twitter.com/WrPanunMhy
— Ryan Wood (@RyanWoodDFW) July 13, 2020
Another Twitter user responded with his own guerilla photo of Cruz, snapped on a flight, that shows Cruz clearly wearing a mask per American Airlines policy.
— Comfortably Smug (@ComfortablySmug) July 13, 2020
Ted Cruz has been a vocal supporter of efforts to combat the novel coronavirus, petitioning the Trump administration to expand its efforts to assist states in providing testing, per Axios, and the Senator is regularly photographed wearing a mask — typically one with the Houston Rockets logo — while at work in Congress.
Regardless of the statement and the alternate photograph, American Airlines told Enad that they plan on reviewing the photo and investigating the incident.
“American Airlines, which requires all passengers to wear masks during the duration of their flight, said it is reviewing the situation after photographs emerged of Sen. Ted Cruz not wearing a mask on a plane,” The Hill reported Monday.
“We are committed to protecting the health and safety of all those who fly with us, and we are reviewing the details of this matter,” an airline spokesperson added to the outlet. The airline tweeted the same message at Enad after he posted the photo, and to other “concerned passengers” who tagged American Airlines in their response tweets.
American Airlines has required passengers to wear masks since resuming widespread service in June. The airline says it “expect[s] customers who choose to fly with us to comply with these policies, and if necessary, we will deny future travel for customers who refuse to do so.”
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