Former U.S. Navy SEAL Robert J. O’Neill who claims to have shot dead Osama Bin Laden in a 2011 special ops mission says Delta Air Lines has just banned him from flying with the airline until further notice for failing to wear a face mask on a recent flight.
O’Neill controversially posted a photo of himself bare-faced onboard a Delta flight on Wednesday with the simple caption: “I’m not a pussy”. And while he never directly referenced Delta’s stringent face mask rules, the Tweet was widely interpreted as a reference to a mandatory face mask policy that was introduced to protect passengers from COVID-19.
Several hours after posting the offending photo, O’Neill’s wife deleted the original Tweet and O’Neill claimed the stunt was a joke. He then went onto downplay social distancing guidelines, telling his followers: “I shook thousands of hands and gave thousands of hugs this week. I flew on some planes. I’ll be alive next week.”
According to John Hopkins University, over five and a half million people in the United States alone have now tested positive for the novel Coronavirus. Nearly 174,000 victims in the U.S. have tragically died after contracting COVID-19.
In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, Delta has introduced a series of measures to protect passengers and staff, and restore confidence in the safety of air travel. Along with increased cleaning and blocking middle seats (now extended through January 6, 2021), the airline now requires all passengers and crew to wear an approved face mask or covering.
The Atlanta-based airline has stepped up enforcement of its policy in recent weeks, taking a particularly tough stance against anyone who refuses to comply with the rules. Latest figures suggest Delta is responsible for nearly half of all passenger bans for mask non-compliance. So far, the airline has added at least 150 passengers to its ‘no-fly’ list.
On Thursday, O’Neill confirmed on Twitter that Delta had gone ahead and banned him for failing to wear a face mask on Wednesday’s flight. O’Neill, however, didn’t see it as a ban for not wearing a face mask but rather a ban for posting a photo.
“As the pandemic continues, wearing a mask remains the best, most readily available and most efficient defense method to protect against COVID-19, which is why Delta requires a mask on every trip,” Delta chief executive Ed Bastian said on Thursday.
“Study after study shows that wearing masks helps prevent transmission; one study indicated that COVID-19 would drop to approximately one-twelfth the number of infections if 80 per cent of Americans wore masks,” he continued.
A spokesperson for Delta confirmed the airline had banned O’Neill, saying in a statement: “Part of every customer’s commitment prior to traveling on Delta is the requirement to acknowledge our updated travel policies, which includes wearing a mask.”
“Failure to comply with our mask-wearing mandate can result in losing the ability to fly Delta in the future.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.