Black Trump-supporter wearing 'Black voices for Trump' hat booted from Southwest Airlines flight after lowering his MAGA mask to eat peanuts

Southwest Airlines has a BIG problem on its hands after a black passenger wearing a "Black voices for Trump" hat was ejected from a flight yesterday, allegedly for lowering his MAGA face mask to eat peanuts.  A tweet showing video of the incident taken by another passenger was marked as "sensitive" content by Twitter when I tried to watch it, requiring an extra click to view.  I don't know if that will be the case for you, but here it is embedded below:

 Part 2, below, did not come with the sensitive content warning when I viewed it, for some reason:

Southwest issued a statement to the Washington Examiner claiming that the passenger repeatedly defied crew requests to wear a face mask:

"Our reports indicate that a Customer traveling on Flight 2632, with scheduled service from Tampa to Dallas, was asked repeatedly by more than one Employee at different times to wear a face mask. The Customer did not comply with our Crew's multiple verbal requests — including while boarding the flight before seated. Therefore, the decision was made to return to the gate and re-accommodate him on a later flight to his final destination after receiving assurances he would comply with our face covering policy. We regret the inconvenience the situation created for all involved, but our Crew must uphold the well-being and comfort of all Passengers," Southwest Airlines told the Washington Examiner.

"Customers are required to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth at all times during their Southwest travel experience," the Southwest Airlines website states. "It is highly encouraged to bring your own hand sanitizer and face covering. In accordance with the current CDC guidance, a well-secured cloth or mask that fits snugly against the face, covers an individual's nose and mouth, and is secured under the chin will be accepted."

However, other passengers on the flight disputed this account.  Ellie Bufkin notes at Townhall:

Witnesses in the video came to the man's defense, saying that he was in fact wearing his mask until he lowered it in order to snack on peanuts while safely in his own seat. On the video, other passengers gestured toward a flight attendant at the front of the aircraft and said that the ejection had nothing to do with mask policy. 

"It's not the mask," one woman said. "It's the hat." 

Twitter via U.K. Daily Mail.

Donald Trump, Jr. was one of many people to express incredulity at the excuse offered by Southwest, in a tweet that was censored by Twitter (sound familiar?):

Twitter via UK Daily Mail

If Southwest wants passengers to wear masks the entire flight, why do the flight attendants still distribute snacks?  A relative of mine flew Southwest from Honolulu to Oakland quite recently and received two different bags of snacks during the flight.  How is one supposed to eat them without lowering the required mask? 

Southwest has a well deserved reputation for superior customer service, with a corporate culture fostered by longtime but now retired president Herb Kelleher, who emphasized having fun.  Its employees generally don't hate the company, which unfortunately is very common among airline employees whose companies have declared bankruptcy and gutted employee pay benefits.  In my decades as a frequent-flyer management consultant, Southwest was my preferred carrier for short flights, and I even once wrote a letter to the company praising an employee who went out of her way to get me on a flight that was departing very soon.

In my view, the company had to initially stand by its flight attendant's report.  To do otherwise would seriously harm morale, which is one of the company's most important competitive edges.  But because passengers dispute the account and have video evidence, further investigation and consideration are probable.

Southwest has a lot to lose right now.  Because its balance sheet is stronger than competitors United and American, it is expanding onto their turf while they are reeling from COVID and adding new destinations while others contract.  Alienating half the country is not a recipe for success.

Many of us fearing a Biden victory are counting on the "shy Trump voter" phenomenon: people who fear openly expressing their support for the POTUS in an era of TDS rage.  It appears that fears of harassment for open Trump support are no fantasy.  

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