“I couldn't believe the lack of compassion.”
Kaley Justice said that after her family was kicked off an Alaska Airlines flight Monday and forced to buy tickets on another airline to return home to San Diego.
Justice said her 7-month-old son kept pulling off her face mask while breastfeeding and she had a hard time getting it back on for a couple of minutes.
Justice, her boyfriend, and their son Finn were visiting family in Spokane, Washington, last week. They were set to return home to Encinitas Monday.
“We boarded the plane. We were on time. We had our masks on. We stowed away everything, all our carry-on,” she told NBC 7 via Zoom.
Justice said Finn was cranky, so she started breastfeeding to calm him down.
“I was discreet. I wasn't like crazy-topless or anything like that. I was covered,” she said. “[Finn] kept ripping my mask off because, he's like, 'Mom's under there. Peekaboo! What the heck's going on? I want to see your face.'”
Justice said she struggled to keep it on and hold onto her baby.
“I just held it in my hand for a second and I know [the flight staff] said multiple times, 'You may take your mask off briefly to eat or drink,' which, in my opinion, is a little more crazy; opening your mouth,” she said. “The flight attendant said, 'You need to wear your mask.' And I was like, 'Oh yeah, I'm sorry. OK.' And I put it back on and I'm still kind of fighting with Finn to get him relaxed.”
She said Finn kept pulling the mask off her face.
“So, I held it for one second and I think [the flight attendant] was watching me… I really feel like she was trying to bust me,” Justice said. “I tried to explain to her, 'Baby was just ripping it off my face. I'm not trying to refuse to wear it. I totally understand.'”
Justice said the flight attendant told her several times while she wrestled with her son, but she says her mask was off less than a total of two minutes.
“Then Finn calmed down and from that point forward I wore my mask the entire time. I never once removed it,” she sighed. “It was very bizarre. I just don't know. I felt targeted, genuinely.”
Justice said she is a grocery worker and wears her mask every day while on the job. She said Finn was asleep by the time the Alaska Airlines flight started pushing back from the gate. However, the plane stopped and returned to the gate.
“The pilot comes on and says, 'My flight attendants have notified me of an issue in the cabin. Hopefully we can resolve it quickly,’” she recalled.
Justice said she was shocked to learn the plane returned to the gate because they would be escorted off.
“I was so shocked at this point, "Seriously? Is this a joke?' I thought, 'Maybe they're just going to speak to us.' I don't know. It was very surprising,’” said Justice. “Nothing wrong was done. Nobody was inappropriate. Nobody outburst. Nobody said anything rude. I wasn't not complying. It was just really genuinely outrageous.”
“The only answer I got was, 'This is 2020. Common sense is no more.' Huh?” she said.
NBC 7 Responds contacted Alaska Airlines. A spokeswoman confirmed Justice and her family were removed from the flight from Spokane to San Diego.
In a statement, Alaska Airlines said:
“The details of what Ms. Justice shared are upsetting. We know mask compliance can be challenging, especially for young children, and in situations like this when a parent is trying to tend to their infant. We’re reviewing the case internally and will apply any lessons learned from this experience. We’ve followed-up with Ms. Justice to offer our apologies for her experience. There is nothing more important than the safety of all of our guests and employees. We’re in this together.”
After NBC 7 Responds spoke with Alaska Airlines, Justice was informed she would be reimbursed for her trip, Alaska would pay for the flight her family had to book on Delta to get home, and she’d received a $300 credit towards future flights on Alaska Airlines.
Justice said the airlines did the right thing, but she added her family will never get back the time and they won’t get over the stress caused by the trip.