At a moment that virus masks and other protective clothing are in high demand and are increasingly a feature among travelers at busy international hubs, a bizarre incident caused a security scare aboard an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Houston late last week.
Fox reports a man caused flight passengers to briefly panic after he boarded wearing a full gas mask. "The flight was delayed an hour because the unidentified man refused to take off the mask, causing passengers to panic," according to the report.
Security board the aircraft before take-off to remove the man after he reportedly told others around him he "wanted to make a statement". This caused fears that he could have been planning some sort of event or attack and that the mask was "for his own safety".
"I had a seat in the back," one eyewitness told Houston ABC station KTRK. "I looked up and saw a guy coming onto the plane wearing a full gas mask, which was kind of odd. He didn't have a filter though — which I thought was even more strange."
"Immediately, people start talking in the back of the plane," the eyewitness added. "You couldn't see his face. You couldn't identify any features on him. People were worried he had sneaked something on board and that he had the mask for his own safety."
@AmericanAir , Just FYI flight 2212 to Houston was delayed an hour because you let this guy on the plane wearing a gas mask. This then panicked people on the plane and we had to wait for him to be escorted off. @abc13houston @KHOU @HoustonChron @KPRC2 @FOX26Houston #trainbetter pic.twitter.com/mZkWea606d— Joseph D S❄️ (@ThePlatypusesTX) January 31, 2020
"My gut reaction was that he was probably worried about the coronavirus and had put on the gas mask as overkill kind of protection," the man explained further. "But then I noticed it didn't have the filter, so that didn't really make sense."
Fox described that it "appeared to be an odd reach for shock value" given in the aftermath American Airlines issued a statement saying the man was later cooperative and flew without the mask on a separate flight.