A FlySafair flight was forced to turn back to the terminal on Saturday after a passenger onboard refused to wear a mask.
According to the airline's spokesperson, Kirby Gordon, Flight FA288 was taxiing towards the runway at OR Tambo International Airport after 17:00, about to take off to King Shaka International Airport, when the incident happened.
The said passenger refused to wear his mask, leaving the airline crew and pilot with no other choice but to offload him.
"The gentleman refused to wear his mask, which is a national law, and Civil Aviation regulation and it happened before the aircraft took off.
"We, unfortunately, had to turn back to the terminal and he was escorted off the aircraft by SAPS," said Gordon.
Gordon added that the passenger had refused to comply with regulations and to wear his mask on board. He said the airline had no other alternative but to turn back after struggling to have the passenger comply.
"The reality is that in this new normal, wearing a mask in a public space is the national law, and it is also Civil Aviation regulation. So we need to enforce that rule with the same degree of vigilance that we would if, say a passenger would sit down in an aircraft and light a cigarette or refuse to wear their seatbelt.
"Not following regulation and law puts our operating license in jeopardy, but more than that, it's bout maintaining the right thing to do so we have tolerance policy on this matter," the spokesperson.
He added that the incident had caused a slight delay to the flight, affecting others too, but the time was made up.
Gordon said as a matter of interest, if a flight was midway and a passenger refused to comply with any regulations, the pilot was allowed to decide to land at the nearest airport or return to where the flight departed from.
"In which case we will hold the individual who was jeopardising everyone's safety liable for the costs to land that aircraft, then we take off again, which could easily be in the region of about R120 000," he said.