Passengers brawl on plane over masks

A man who refused to wear a face mask on a Utah-bound flight was escorted off the plane in Arizona after he and another man who asked him to follow the rules got into a physical altercation, police said Monday.

Rylie Lansford of Lehigh, Utah, boarded the Allegiant flight in Mesa, Arizona, on Saturday and was sitting near both passengers. As soon as the two men started fighting on the Provo-bound flight, Lansford said, she ran to the front of the plane and started recording video.

“I just knew that something was going to go down and so really all I was thinking about was getting out of the way,” she said Monday.

Lansford said the fight began when a man sitting behind her started arguing with a flight attendant after she asked him to wear a mask. He was wearing a face shield, but “face shields must be worn in addition to a face covering, but not as an alternative," according to Allegiant's policy.

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Another passenger sitting in Lansford's row then turned around, started yelling at the man to wear a mask and began shouting obscenities and other threats, she said. Police said the first man told him to mind his own business.

A gate supervisor came to remove the man wearing a face shield who then elbowed the man in front of him and said he was the reason why he had to leave, Mesa police said in a statement.

Lansford's video shows the man in front choking the passenger who refused to wear a mask, pulling his hair and hitting him in the back.

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An off-duty police officer stopped the fight and escorted the man who wouldn't wear a mask off the flight, police said.

The second man was allowed to stay on the plane, Lansford said.

“I was just annoyed that it was just one simple thing that one person had to do,” she said. “If you buy a plane ticket, wear a mask.”

Allegiant Air said in a statement that passengers are required to wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth at all times when traveling.

Authorities identified the man who was removed from the flight as 52-year-old Rio Honaker. An officer cited Honaker with one count of disorderly conduct.

It was not clear if Honaker had an attorney, and no listed phone number could be found.