A New Jersey family kicked off a Spirit Airlines flight last week because their two-year-old daughter wasn’t wearing a mask described the incident as a nightmare leaving the pregnant wife with painful contractions, their toddler screaming uncontrollably and 7-year-old son with special needs wetting his pants.
Ari and Avital Eisenberg, of Toms River, were seen being booted off a plane with their two young children last week in now-viral videos shared on social media.
In an interview with DailyMail.com they claim they were singled out for ‘being Jewish’ and say staff later tried to smooth things over by offering them a coupon.
The Jewish couple were flying back home with their toddler daughter Esther and seven-year-old son Daniel, who has special needs, after spending Passover with relatives in Florida.
Just moments after they boarded, a flight attendant accused the family of violating the mask mandate after Esther took her face covering off to eat yogurt.
They were ordered to deplane.
The confrontation resulted in a heated exchange, prompting the attendant to call the police and order all passengers to disembark.
Ari and Avital Eisenberg, pictured with their daughter Esther, were temporarily booted off a Spirit Airlines flight from Orlando to Atlantic City last Monday after the toddler removed her mask
Avital, who is seven months pregnant, and her husband recalled the ‘humiliating’ and ‘mortifying’ incident in an interview with DailyMail.com
The Jewish couple were flying back home with their toddler daughter Esther and seven-year-old son Daniel, who has special needs, after spending Passover with relatives in Florida. Just moments after they boarded, a flight attendant (pictured) accused the family of violating the mask mandate after Esther took her face covering off to eat yogurt
Avital claimed the flight attendant addressed them in a way that suggested she was being discriminatory.
She claimed the woman addressed her and her husband, who was wearing a yarmulke, as ‘you people’, which she took as a reference to Orthodox Judaism.
‘Right away, I was like, ‘Oh, she’s calling me out for being Jewish.’
Avital said the insults kept coming even after her family was invited back onto the plane.
Members of the flight crew started cracking jokes, tried charging her for water and then attempted to smooth things over by gifting her a pair of Spirit coupons worth a combined 2,000 points – not enough for even a single one-way flight.
‘The stewardess came up to me and said, ‘Are you the Eisenberg family?’ Avital recalled of the coupon exchange.
‘And then she handed me the two tickets, saying ‘These are for you. A special gift from Spirit to you.’
She was trying to be nice to me and sweet, as though that makes up for everything, as though I’m ever going to fly on Spirit ever again, or anyone I know will ever fly on Spirit again.’
She and her husband, Ari spoke with DailyMail.com outside their special education lawyer’s office in Lakewood, N.J. They’re considering legal action against Spirit, wanting to pressure the airline to make accommodations for toddlers and other children with special needs in their mask policy..
In now-viral footage of the incident, a flight attendant was seen ordering the family off the plane because they allegedly violated the mask policy
Ari pointed out that they were traveling with their ‘special needs’ son (pictured) but the flight attendant was less than sympathetic
They’re also demanding an official apology.
‘The most important thing we’re looking to happen is that this doesn’t happen again, to any child,’ lawyer Michael Inzelbuch told DailyMail.com.
The incident happened as the flight from Atlantic City from Orlando, Florida was about to take off last week.
The family spent Passover with Ari’s relatives in Florida and were about to board the plane when 7-year-old Daniel, who has ADD, suffers seizures and is prone to aggression, ran ahead without a mask.
They said a male flight attendant named Daryl stopped them.
‘Daryl turned to me and said, ‘Where’s his mask?’ Avital Eisenberg recalled. ‘And I explained he has special needs, that he doesn’t let me touch him, let alone put a mask on him.’
‘Daryl looked at me and replied, ‘I said, where’s his mask?’ He clearly was not listening to what I was saying. He told me if he doesn’t put a mask on, we’re not flying.’
The Eisenbergs asked for two masks.
‘I told him we were going to try our best,’ Ari Eisenberg told DailyMail.com. ‘We tried so freaking hard, trust me. I’d pay anyone in the world to keep a mask on my children for more than 10 seconds.’
Despite their efforts to reason with the cabin crew, the confrontation resulted in all of the passengers being ordered off the flight. Avital is seen holding her two-year-old as they prepare to leave the plane
After they got to their seats, the father gave his boy an iPhone loaded with prerecorded videos of elevator doors opening and closing. His son Daniel, who has an aversion to earphones because of his condition and watches the clips to stay calm, turned up the volume.
Another flight attendant ordered them to lower the sound. Ari grabbed the phone from his son, who grew agitated. Avital explained the situation and the flight attendant relented.
‘I’m not having the risk of having my son have a seizure just because somebody wants the volume turned down,’ the mother said.
Esther, the toddler, started eating her brother’s yogurt, sans mask. This prompted an announcement.
‘They said on the loudspeaker, ‘You have to put a mask on between every bite.’ Avital recalled. ‘I started to laugh. She’s two. She’s a baby. She was hungry. She saw her brother’s yogurt. She ate it.’
The family was then ordered to leave the plane for violating the mask mandate, prompting the heated exchange.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires everyone over 2 years old to wear a face covering on commercial flights, but allows some exceptions for passengers with special needs.
The confrontation was captured on video, as passengers whipped out their cell phones. Videos posted online were viewed by millions.
Avital claims the woman addressed her and her husband, who was wearing a yarmulke at the time, as ‘you people’, which the mom took as a reference to Orthodox Judaism. ‘Right away, I was like, “Oh, she’s calling me out for being Jewish,’ she said
The family, pictured with their lawyer Michael Inzelbuch, are now considering taking legal action against the airline and are demanding a formal apology
Spirit Airlines defended its handling of the dispute and say they wish to ‘open up a direct dialogue with the family’
The mother and father immediately asked the steward why they were being kicked off the flight.
”I’m sorry. They want you off,’ the flight attendant tells the family, adding that they were ‘noncompliant with the masks’.
The Eisenbergs responded that they have been wearing their masks when the attendant pointed to their daughter and said: ‘She’s not wearing one.’
Other passengers sitting nearby told the flight attendant that there were other babies not wearing masks and that the little girl was eating yogurt while waiting for takeoff.
The flight attendant responded: ‘it’s not my choice’ as the girl’s dad argued that they also have their ‘special needs’ son with them.
‘We’re done talking. The pilot wants you off, so you have to get off.’
Avital pleaded: ‘She’s a baby. She just turned two a month ago. She’s been trying to wear it.’
At one point, Ari seemed to bring race into the mix. ‘The captain was OK with it, the whole plane was okay with it but there was one African-American that was not okay with it,’ he says on the video.
The family (pictured after getting back on the plane) and all of the passengers were let back onto the plane a short time later
He drew some flak for that comment. Asked about it during his interview, with DailyMail.com Ari said he didn’t mean to offend anyone. ‘My help is black, the person who watches my baby every day,’ he noted. ‘I was trying to be respectful. I guess that was not respectful.’
His wife said the flight attendant made her own discriminatory remark when she told them ‘you people’ aren’t following the mask mandate. She took that as a reference to Orthodox Judaism.
‘Right away, I was like, ‘Oh, she’s calling me out for being Jewish,’ Avital said.
All passengers were ordered off the plane. The Eisenbergs were greeted by cops and ordered to sit in a small corner of the airport.
‘My son was trying to escape,’ Avital Eisenberg told DailyMail.com. ‘I was literally having contractions from all the stress. And my daughter was going crazy.’
They spent nearly an hour cooped up in the airport before they were all allowed back on board.
Once in their seats, a flight attendant got on the loudspeaker and started cracking jokes.
‘Welcome to Spirit Airlines. We are on board flying to Jamaica – just kidding!’ the crew member quipped.
‘She was making a joke about putting a mother through hell,’ Avital said. ‘Nobody thought it was funny. Nobody was laughing. Forget me and my family, what we went through. Everyone had little children who were going absolutely psycho at this point.’
‘And they were trying to be funny and silly the whole flight, They were telling everyone, “We’re going to give you a complimentary water bottle.”‘
Later in the flight, Avital asked for a second bottle of water. The flight attendant initially refused.
‘I asked for two waters during the flight,’ she said. ‘I told her I’m seven months pregnant. And she told me — ‘No, only one on the house.’
I said, ‘You know I was the one kicked off the plane.’ And she started complaining about the fact she wasn’t even supposed to be working that shift. She’s like – ‘I was supposed to be in a hotel resting right now. I was disturbed from my hotel shift.’
She speculated that this crew member was a replacement for Daryl, who didn’t return to the flight.
Once the plane landed in Atlantic City, the Eisenbergs turned on their iPhones.
‘We landed and our phones blew up,’ Avital said. ‘It was embarrassing, mortifying, humiliating. Just bringing my kids to the shoe store can be traumatic for us. Now the entire world saw me, my husband, our two beautiful children in not such a good state.’
Spirit Airlines defended its handling of the dispute.
‘Our team members were following the federal mask requirement and asked the adults in the party multiple times to comply with that requirement, which happened prior to videos that have been widely shared,’ the company said in a statement. ‘We were pleased that they eventually complied and traveled on the flight as planned. We also understand that we’re looking at this through different lenses which is why we would like to open up a direct dialogue with the family.’
The family’s lawyer said he and the family welcome such a dialogue and have asked Spirit to share information about its mask policies involving two-year-olds and nonverbal, seizure prone children.
Spirit did not return comment request for the perceived anti-Semitic comment.