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Frontier accused of anti-Semitism after canceling flight over lack of face masks

Passengers on a Frontier airplane accused the airline of anti-Semitism after it canceled a flight of mostly Hasidic Jewish passengers, saying a group of people refused to wear face masks. 

A Frontier Airlines spokeswoman told The Hill in a statement on Monday that it canceled the flight from Miami to New York after "a large group of passengers repeatedly refused to comply with the U.S. government's federal mask mandate."

But several passengers counter that description, saying the group wore masks and the disagreement began because a 15-month-old was not wearing a mask, according to The New York Times. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mandates that those at least 2 years old wear masks, exempting younger individuals.   

Video footage from the plane posted online, including some published by the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council, appears to show members of the group wearing masks, although it does not appear to include the beginning of the dispute. 

One video includes a couple holding a baby, who is not wearing a mask, in a car seat, and a woman says the children in their group took off their masks to eat.

"We're law-abiding citizens, law-abiding people," one of the passengers, Martin Joseph, told the Times. "We have small children. We understand that the mask has to be worn, and everybody has to wear a mask and that's the law. We comply one million percent."

Several passengers interviewed on video said airline employees high-fived each other as passengers exited the plane. One of the passengers, who was not traveling with the group, confirmed that interaction to the Times.

"Multiple people, including several adults, were asked repeatedly to wear their masks and refused to do so," Frontier spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz said.

"Based on the continued refusal to comply with the federal mask mandate, refusal to disembark the aircraft and aggression towards the flight crew, local law enforcement was engaged," she said. "The flight was ultimately canceled."

When asked by the Times about the anti-Semitism accusations, de la Cruz told the newspaper that the airline looks into "every situation where a passenger has to be removed from a flight."

"Like many other airlines," she said, "Frontier has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to masks on our flights. This is made clear at the time of purchase, prior to and during the check-in process, at the gate and on board the aircraft."

The Anti-Defamation League of New York and New Jersey requested a "full & transparent investigation" into the incident, saying "a visibly Jewish family was asked to leave" the flight and adding there were "apparent #antisemitic comments made by crew or others."

- Updated on March 2 at 9:17 a.m.

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