Southwest Airlines removes Pittsburgh women from flight

PITTSBURGH — For a group of Pittsburgh women, their spring vacation to Florida was wonderful, until they stepped onto a Southwest Airlines plane to return home to Pennsylvania.

“I felt bad that I was sneezing, but it was my allergies. I said to her (the flight attendant) I’m fully vaccinated. I didn’t want people to feel uncomfortable,” said Kelly Smith.

Kelly Smith along with her sister, mother and friend were on Southwest flight 4427, which was scheduled to depart West Palm Beach and head toward home, when she started to sneeze.

Smith tells Channel 11, the flight attendant brought her tissues for her to use, which she did, by removing her mask.

Moments after doing so, Smith was being escorted off of the aircraft.

“It was humiliating. We were in the back row. It was a disturbance not only to the people on the flight, I think the flight attendant was having a bad day. But, it was a disruption to my family and friends,” said Smith.

“I keep making the joke that at any moment, I thought Ashton Kutcher was going to come around the corner and say, we were being Punk’d, because it was that ridiculous,” said Kim Dandurand, Kelly’s sister.

The women tell Channel 11, after being removed from the aircraft, they had to purchase a hotel room for the evening, because Southwest Airlines rebooked them on a flight more than an hour away, at a different airport.

Southwest Airlines sent Channel 11 a statement pertaining to this incident that reads in-part, “Our reports indicate this Customer was not wearing a mask properly on multiple occasions while onboard the aircraft and in the presence of other Customers and Crew.”

Smith’s response to the allegations, “Disbelief. It is just not true. It breaks my heart to say that because I joked earlier, I didn’t even get my card pulled in elementary school. I never went to yellow or red. This is something that just doesn’t happen to us,” said Smith.

Southwest Airlines tells Channel 11 they regret the inconvenience Smith and her party experienced, but that they were following federal guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Smith and her group tell Channel 11, they are disappointed with Southwest Airlines and the actions of their cabin crew.

Southwest Airlines provided the following statement to Channel 11:

“While we regret any inconvenience this Customer experienced, federal law requires each person, 2 years of age and older, to wear a mask over the mouth and nose at all times to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our reports indicate this Customer was not wearing a mask properly on multiple occasions while onboard the aircraft and in the presence of other Customers and Crew.

Southwest communicates the federal mask mandate via multiple touchpoints, including: during booking; in a pre-trip emails sent prior to departure; and during a required acknowledgement that is part of the Customer Health Declaration Form which appears during the check-in process on the Southwest app,, Southwest’s mobile website, and airport kiosks.

As a gesture of goodwill, Southwest rebooked the Customer on a different flight to allow the individual more time to comply with the federal mask mandate. You can read more about the face covering requirements by visiting our website.

We appreciate the spirit of compliance to the federal mask mandate, and the ongoing cooperation among our Customers and Employees, as we work collectively to support the wellbeing of all who travel with us during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”