TOMS RIVER – A township couple and their attorney, Michael Inzelbuch, are demanding an apology from Spirit Airlines following their family’s removal from a flight on the morning of April 5.
Inzelbuch held an online press conference where he stated the issue concerned a dispute about not wearing a mask. The dispute resulted in the entire Atlantic City bound Flight 138 to disembark in Orlando, Florida.
The Eisenberg family has two children, Daniel, 7, who has special needs and his sister Esther, 2. The mother of the family is seven months pregnant. The family was told by a flight attendant to exit the plane due to the toddler’s inability to wear a mask while eating.
The airline’s spokesman, Field Sutton, told New Jersey 101.5 FM radio that the incident was not about the toddler not wearing a mask but the parents refusing to wear theirs.
Sutton stated that reports concerning the 2-year-old were not correct and that a video that includes reference to the toddler does not show that the parents had refused to wear their masks which is “what caused this to be an issue.”
Passengers of the flight were brought back on the plane and the flight took off at 1:30 p.m. about two and a half hours late.
A video posted by former major league baseball player Lenny Dykstra posted to his Twitter account, showed the father blaming the flight attendant for the situation. Dykstra indicated that the family may have been targeted due to them being Jewish, but Sutton dismissed that calling the idea “absurd.”
After speaking to a supervisor following their departure from the plane, they agreed to wear masks during the flight back to New Jersey which arrived around 4 p.m., according to Sutton. The flight attendant was not escorted from the plane nor questioned by police in the airport terminal. He said a crew change was required following the two hours of delay. The flight attendants involved had gone on to their next assignment.
TSA rules mandate that all passengers over the age of 2 must wear a properly fitted mask during all flights.
Inzelbuch said he had represented the Eisenberg family previously in a case involving Daniel’s education. He described the incident saying, “wrong is wrong.”
“It is beyond dispute the videos are there,” the attorney said. He said the family had been targeted by Spirit Airlines and no less than three employees. “There are videos upon videos. This is not acceptable.”
Inzelbuch added, “Spirit Airlines has failed to come forward with two simple words, ‘I’m sorry’. We’re not interested in taking advantage of the system.” The attorney gave the airline until midnight to contact him with the apology. He said the family was not currently looking for financial compensation but wanted an assurance that this would not happen to another family.
The attorney also mentioned that he would like to see the airline provide additional training to its flight attendant staff concerning the handling of special needs children.
“Daryl there is a place for you,” Inzelbuch said about the flight attendant. “We are not looking for you to be fired. We are not into revenge. For anyone who says these people weren’t wearing their masks, show me the proof.”
He noted that the father had removed his mask only to speak to a flight attendant when he was being “harassed, intimidated and bullied” when questioning instructions that the family would have to leave the plane.
Orlando Police and EMTs at the scene who had been summoned by the airline according to Inzelbuch “will be great witnesses when we get the police report in.
Mrs. Eisenberg was asked by Inzelbuch about Daryl’s first comments when they walked inside the plane. “My husband was collapsing the stroller and I came with both kids onto the plane myself and before we stepped onto the plane this guy Daryl looked at me and asked me where is their mask. I was wearing a mask and I explained to him that I would do my best to have him keep his mask on but he is extremely sensory and he doesn’t even let me touch him and he has seizures. I’m afraid if I block his face it might induce a seizure.”
“He looked at me completely blank faced and said, ‘I asked you where is his mask?’ I was so taken aback,” she said.
Inzelbuch said a child that has the level of disability that Daniel has was exempt from wearing a mask. Daryl gave Mrs. Eisenberg two masks after telling her that they would not be allowed on the plane without a mask.
“I tried to put it on my son and he fought it and I tried with my daughter and I told them let me get settled and I will do my best to get them to put them on. The entire time my husband and I were wearing our masks,” she added.
“Another stewardess said we had to have masks on our kids,” Mr. Eisenberg said. “I told her he is special needs and she said, okay, what about her? She understood he was special needs and he can’t wear a mask. So, she moved on to her. I told her she just turned 2 and she will rip it right off but we could try.”
“We want to see the policies. We want to see how three steward/stewardesses working for an airline can subject this family to that,” Inzelbuch said.