DENVER (KDVR) — More than 7 million people have watched the emotional plea from Eliz Fulop on her Instagram page as she explains with tears in her eyes why her family was kicked off of a plane at Denver International Airport.
“We just got kicked off a flight because our 2-year-old would not wear a mask,” she says in the video.
She and her husband, Erhard Orban, and their daughter, Edeline, were in the Colorado mountains for a ski trip and had a flight to New Jersey to see family over the weekend.
Fulop says they fly United frequently but did not review the company’s child mask policy before boarding. This is the first time they’ve experienced a crew enforcing the policy despite their toddler flying maskless with them several times before.
“We’ve flown with our daughter four times. This was going to be the fourth during the pandemic,” Flop said.
The couple says the crew asked their daughter’s age upon boarding and said she needed to wear a mask. They said the crew provided one for them since they did not have one for her.
The edited video shows Fulop and Orban trying to put the mask on Edeline several times, but the toddler refuses. It was unclear how long United tried to work with the family or what options flight attendants gave them before escorting them off the plane.
Fulop said she started recording after hearing the pilot mention passengers were going to be removed from the flight. The family says the United crew did not immediately address them after they boarded, then one of the supervisors approached them in their seats, instructing them to leave.
“Humiliated,” Fulop said. “Very confused. Almost disgusted with myself for having to do that to my daughter.”
United sent a statement to the Problem Solvers saying:
“The health and safety of our employees and customers is our highest priority, which is why we have a multi-layered set of policies, including mandating that everyone onboard two and older wears a mask. These procedures are not only backed by guidance from the CDC and our partners at the Cleveland Clinic, but they’re also consistent across every major airline. We are investigating this specific incident and have made contact with the family. We also refunded their tickets and returned their car seat and bags.”
The World Health Organization says, in general, children aged 5 years and under should not be required to wear masks.
“It’s difficult to know what really took place,” said Metropolitan State University of Denver Aviation Professor Jeffery Price, saying it’s hard to understand the interaction without the context you can’t see in the video.
Price says parents should take time to research different airline rules when it comes to mask mandates before booking tickets and take time to prepare children for wearing masks on a flight.
“You know a 2-year-old is not gonna process complex data, but you can do a little bit to turn it into a game and kind of stress it’s very important that you do this,” Price said.
Orban said the family is weighing all their options. He said United is still investigating to see whether any member of their family will be banned from the airline for noncompliance.
“So many parents can resonate, and it also made them afraid of how they’re going to travel this holiday,” Fulop said.