Tension over wearing face masks led to a passenger's removal from an American Airlines flight Wednesday as airlines enforce stricter safety measures.
Passenger Brandon Straka was asked to get off a flight from New York to Dallas after he refused to wear a face covering as required by American Airlines policy, the airline confirmed in a statement.
This is the first known incident of this type since the airlines announced plans to more strictly enforce mask wearing.
Wearing face coverings on planes is not mandated by law, but airlines have instituted their own mask requirements for crew and passengers. This week, several major US carriers, including American Airlines, pledged that they will take a harder line on enforcing their policies.
American Airlines confirmed the incident aboard Flight 1263 from New York's LaGuardia to Dallas/Fort Worth, saying that Straka declined to wear a face covering.
"After he refused to comply with the instructions provided by the flight crew, our team members asked him to deplane. He deplaned and the flight departed the gate four minutes late at 12:34 p.m. ET," the airline said in a statement.
"This is insane. Absolutely insane," Straka said in a Periscope post on social media. "We don't even have a choice anymore."
Straka told CNN in a phone interview that the flight was close to departing when "one of the flight attendants came to me pretty aggressively and said, 'Sir, you need to be wearing your mask.' And I said, 'Well, I don't have one.'"
Straka is a conservative personality who has appeared on Fox News. He describes himself on his website as a former liberal who encourages people to leave the Democratic Party.
When asked about masks, Straka said he is anti-mask for himself, but he sees it as a personal decision. Along with T-shirts and other items, Straka sells masks on his website.
The flight attendant said he needed to wear a mask to be on the flight, Straka said, and indicated that it was a law.
"I was just irritated by the fact that there wasn't even a conversation. I said to her, 'That's actually not a law.'"
In a video posted on Twitter by a New York Times reporter who was on board the flight, an argument about the mask policy was recorded.
That clip, which doesn't capture the whole argument and provides audio but no images of the speakers, includes an exchange about medical conditions and a female voice is heard asking about medical documentation. Straka also tweeted about the incident.
When asked by CNN whether he has a medical condition, Straka declined to comment but said, "I find it difficult and prohibitive to wear a mask, yes."
He said that he has never before had a problem with not wearing a mask on flights.
"I fly sometimes two or three times a week, and even during shutdown I was flying a minimum of once every two weeks. I am quite used to traveling and this has literally never been an issue. Not one single time, even with this airline," Straka said.
While US aviation officials have not mandated face coverings for air travelers, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration said in congressional testimony Wednesday that passengers are expected to wear masks when directed by flight attendants.
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in his testimony that air travelers should wear face coverings "for their own protection and the protection of those around them. Face coverings are especially important in situations where social distancing is not feasible."