St. Johns County

Coronavirus: St. Augustine family kicked off plane because 2-year-old girl refused to wear mask


A St. Augustine family said they were kicked off an American Airlines flight because their 2-year-old daughter refused to wear a mask.

Briana Leshinsky said she was was flying home from Michigan after the holidays Monday with her husband, their 4-year-old and 2-year-old daughters, her father, and mother-in-law.

What should’ve been a quick connecting flight from Charlotte, NC to the Jacksonville International Airport turned into frustration when Leshinsky said they were booted off the plane.

“They threatened to ban all of us,” Leshinsky said. “They have said that we’re not banned for life, but they did threaten it.”

Leshinsky recorded cell phone video that shows people deplaning. In the vide you can hear her say, “They’re kicking us off and making everybody deplane because Makenna won’t keep her mask on.”

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Leshinsky said her daughter, Makenna, was eating a snack when the flight attendant asked if she had a mask.

“My daughter was literally chewing,” Leshinsky said. “The stewardess said, ‘you are going to have to put her mask on.’ I said, ‘I will as soon as she’s done eating.’”

Leshinsky said they tried getting Makenna to put on the mask, but she wasn’t having it.

“She would leave it on for a little bit and then she’d take it off because she wanted to eat, and we would keep trying to put it on. We were bribing her,” Leshinsky said.

Leshinsky said the crew brought a Federal Air Marshal on board to talk to the family.

“I was mortified,” Leshinsky said. “I was sweating bullets because I was so mad and upset.”

She said some passengers stood up for her daughter.

“There was a group of people that supported us and were saying, you know, this is ridiculous. She’s two. Like, let’s just go,” Leshinsky said.

The mother said most passengers were upset with her family.

“People were harassing us, calling us names,” Leshinsky said.

She said it made matters worse when the airline made everyone deplane.

“It was a very bad walk of shame,” Leshinsky said.

Leshinsky said the experience was humiliating and traumatizing.

“It was embarrassing,” Leshinsky said. “People were being terrible to us.”

American Airlines said it offered to rebook the family on another flight to Jacksonville. However, Leshinsky said her husband had to be at work early Tuesday morning, so they decided to rent a van. She said it took them six hours to drive home through the night.

“It was just a nightmare of a drive,” Leshinsky said.

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The airline company said it’s also refunding the family’s tickets for that portion of the trip.

Major U.S. airlines everyone over age 2 to wear a mask on flights. Leshinsky is calling on airlines to show more sympathy.

“I also want, you know, the airlines to understand that they are babies still… be a little bit more understanding that parents are trying to put their masks on,” Leshinsky said.

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