A spokesperson for the Georgia-based airline confirmed to HuffPost in a Monday email that Flight 1227 departed Detroit for Atlanta July 23 before it was forced to turn around.
“Flight 1227 from Detroit to Atlanta returned to the gate following two customers who were non-compliant with crew instructions,” the statement read. “After a short delay, the aircraft departed to Atlanta.”
The spokesperson confirmed that the passengers were “removed due to non-compliance with Delta’s mask requirement,” but offered no additional details.
News of the incident comes as airlines have implemented new safety measures in hopes of reviving foreign and domestic travel, both of which were left decimated as COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic in March.
On its official website, Delta notes customers and employees “are required to wear a face mask, or appropriate cloth face covering over their nose and mouth throughout their travel.” This includes both airport check-in as well as the full duration of the respective flight, with the exception of “limited time while eating or drinking.”
In addition, the total number of passengers has been reduced to 50% capacity in first class and 60% capacity in coach, with the middle seats in all cabins blocked in cases where parties of three or more are not traveling together.
In an interview on “Today” last month, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said more than 100 people had already been banned from the airline for their refusal to wear a mask while onboard.
“You cannot board a Delta plane unless you have a mask on,” he said. “If you board the plane and you insist on not wearing your mask, we will insist that you don’t fly Delta into the future.”
Customers who are unable to wear masks due to health conditions are required to receive a medical screening at the airport. Under Delta’s “Clearance-To-Fly” procedure, such consultations can take more than one hour.
“We implemented a new procedure this week because we’ve had some customers indicate that they have an underlying condition that makes wearing a mask dangerous for them,” Bastian said. “We’ve told them that you may not want to fly, to reconsider whether air travel is the right form of transportation.”
Anyone found falsifying health claims so as to circumvent the mask requirement could be prohibited from flying Delta as long as face coverings are required, he added.
While the airline industry has seen a slight rebound since April, many experts now believe air travel won’t return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024.
Last week, the International Air Transport Association said renewed outbreaks of the coronavirus in the US and other nations, as well as concerns over job security and rising unemployment, have led to a “more pessimistic recovery outlook.”