Man Wearing Gas Mask Panics Passengers on Houston-Bound Flight

February 2, 2020 Updated: February 2, 2020

American Airlines confirmed it removed a man wearing a gas mask on a Houston-bound flight over the weekend, and one witnesses said it was because passengers became panicked.

The airliner told KTRK over the weekend that “the passenger was rebooked on the next flight to Houston, and flew without the mask on yesterday evening.”

The man had flown into the Dallas Airport from Los Angeles before heading to Houston, American Airlines said.

A passenger on the flight, Joseph Say, told the station that passengers on the flight became worried after seeing the gas mask and a black beanie. He said that it triggered fears amid the coronavirus outbreak in China.

“My gut reaction was that he was probably worried about the coronavirus and had put on the gas mask as overkill kind of protection,” Say said, reported ABC News. “But then I noticed it didn’t have the filter, so that didn’t really make sense.”

“I had a seat in the back. I was sitting there. I was talking to the lady next to me. We heard a little bit of commotion,” Say recalled to KTRK. “I looked up and saw a guy coming onto the plane wearing a full gas mask, which was kind of odd. He didn’t have a filter, which I thought was more strange.”

He added, “Immediately, people start talking in the back of the plane. They were worried. Most people wanted him off the plane.” Say said that the unnamed man was asked to remove his gas mask by a flight attendant, but he refused.

“What we heard from the lady sitting next to him was he said he wanted to make a statement. I don’t know what the statement was. I’m not sure what his goals were. To me, it seemed inconsistent,” Say said. “You couldn’t see his face. You couldn’t identify any features on him. People were worried he had sneaked something on-board and that he had the mask for his own safety.”

Say also posted a photo of the man on Twitter. “Thanks for your tweet. Our team is aware of this and worked with local officials. Let us know if you need any assistance with your trip,” American Airlines initially responded.

Reports said the flight was delayed.

American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines said they would suspend flights to mainland China amid the coronavirus outbreak.