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Southwest Airlines pilot urges passengers to wear masks in viral video: ‘It’s not a political statement’

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A Southwest Airlines pilot is going viral for his frank, funny remarks concerning the federal mask mandate during a recent pre-flight announcement. (Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP via Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – A Southwest Airlines pilot is going viral for his frank, funny remarks concerning the federal mask mandate during a recent pre-flight announcement.

As seen in a video clip making the rounds on social media, the pilot ticks through a shortlist of rules, urging his passengers to refrain from drinking alcohol and abide by the federal mask mandate for the well-being of his crew.

“When you listen to what I have to say, I look really cool in front of them,” he announces from the front of the plane. “After all, look at me. I’m a man in polyester pants and a short-sleeve dress shirt. ‘Cool’ is not exactly my middle name right now.”

He then reiterates Southwest’s alcohol policy — “We don’t serve it, you don’t drink it” — before imploring passengers to leave their masks on when not eating or drinking.

“The masks: There is not an eye-roll you can give me that I haven’t seen 750,000 times in the last year,” he announces to the cabin. “I know you don’t like ‘em. I don’t like ‘em either. We have to wear ‘em. It’s a rule. It’s not a political statement, it’s not me taking your rights away, it’s not me asserting my will on you, et cetera, et cetera.

“All the rhetoric that I hear, I don’t want to hear it anymore. I get it. It’s just a rule, and if we don’t have rules, we have anarchy.”

Taking the masks off to eat, he said, was obviously permitted during active snacking.

“If you were smart, you would have went to Costco and bought a 7-pound bag of potato chips that would have lasted you 1 hour and 43 minutes,” he joked. “But you didn’t do that. You went to Hudson News and bought the Cheetos, and that’s going to last you two [minutes]. And most of you have eaten those.”

The passenger who posted the speech to TikTok indicated that the video was taken in late July on a flight from Baltimore to Chicago.

A representative for Southwest Airlines declined to comment specifically on the video but confirmed that its employees are encouraged to “showcase their personality” on the job.

“Overall, our Crews are responsible for supporting compliance of the mask mandate by notifying Customers of the federal requirement during onboard announcements,” a spokesperson for the airline said in an emailed statement. “Our Crews work daily to uphold those expectations during these unusual times and as always, we encourage our People to showcase their personality while working to take care of our Customers.”

The viral clip, shared online only days ago, has already been viewed millions of times on TikTok and Twitter collectively. Many viewers applauded the pilot’s speech, but more than a few expressed disappointment that he had to give it in the first place.

“Hard to believe they have to do this for adults,” one user wrote.

“UNBELIEVABLE that this pilot, (an officer & a gentleman) has to give this lecture to the passengers so that they’ll behave on a flight that lasts ONE HOUR and 45 minutes,” another tweeted.

The Southwest pilot isn’t alone in his frustration. In June, a flight attendant for American Airlines scolded disruptive passengers for making the flight “a living hell” by refusing to abide by mask mandates. And only last week, the Association of Flight Attendants (AWA-CFA) called on the Department of Justice to take action amid a rise in incidents caused by unruly and sometimes “physically abusive” passengers, citing a survey that found 17% had experienced a physical altercation in 2021 alone.

“This is not just about masks as some have attempted to claim. There is a lot more going on here and the solutions require a series of actions in coordination across aviation,” said AFA-CWA President Sara Nelson in a July 29 media release. “It is time to make the FAA ‘zero tolerance’ policy permanent, the Department of Justice to utilize existing statute to conduct criminal prosecution, and implement a series of actions proposed by our union to keep problems on the ground and respond effectively in the event of incidents.”

The FAA originally announced its zero-tolerance policy for unruly passengers on Jan. 13 following a “disturbing increase” in violent or disruptive behavior. The agency specifically noted a “proliferation” of such conduct stemming from passengers’ refusal to wear masks and “following the January 6, 2021 violence at the U.S. Capitol,” according to an order signed by FAA Chief Steve Dickson.

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