Tokyo (Bioreports) — Two passengers on separate flights were forced to disembark from flights in Japan this month after refusing to wear masks while on board.
One incident occurred Saturday and involved a Hokkaido Air System Company flight from Hakodate to the island of Okushiri, both of which are located in the northern province of Hokkaido. One man who was not wearing a mask was ordered off the plane by the captain, according to Matsuhiro Ohta, a public relations official with Hokkaido Air System Company, which is a subsidiary of Japan Airlines, delaying the flight by a half hour.
Ohta said that it appeared the issue stemmed from miscommunication — the passenger claimed after he was forced off the flight that he was developing a rash while wearing the masks. However, Ohta said the passenger was unruly and uncooperative and that his refusal to wear a mask was only part of the reason he was not allowed to fly.
The other incident occurred on September 7. A Peach Aviation flight from the city of Kushiro in Japan’s north to Osaka was forced to make what the airline called an “unscheduled stop” after a passenger refused to put on a mask despite repeated requests from flight attendants. Peach Aviation told Bioreports the flight was forced to land due to the passenger’s unruly behavior and that the company is not ruling out taking legal action against the individual.
Ultimately, the flight made its way to Osaka after a 2 hour and 15 minute delay.
Public health experts say masks are some of the most important tools in the global fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, which to date has infected nearly 30 million people and killed more than 928,000 across the globe, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. In Japan, 76,670 people have been infected this year, 1,464 of whom have died, according to the country’s health ministry.
Many planes have air filtration systems that can kill viruses, but those are likely not a replacement for wearing a mask, so airlines across the world are either asking passengers to wear masks or requiring them to.
A representative at the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, a union representing American Airlines air crew, told Bioreports last month that “reports at our union of passenger misconduct have skyrocketed, and a lot of these are driven by mask compliance on the airplane.”
Bioreports’s Joshua Berlinger and Francesca Street contributed to this report.