Fight over mask-wearing breaks out on flight from Seychelles to Israel

Passengers throw punches, insults at each other after man refuses to wear mask as Israeli passengers return from trip to island nation

Fight erupts on a flight to Israel from the Seychelles, December 6, 2020 (Screen grab)
Fight erupts on a flight to Israel from the Seychelles, December 6, 2020 (Screen grab)

A fight broke out on a flight from the Seychelles to Israel on Monday over onboard mask-wearing.

Partway through the flight from the African island nation, an argument erupted between several passengers wearing masks and a man who refused to put one on.

Several passengers on the Arkia Airlines flight woke up a man who was not wearing a mask and demanded he put one on, the Ynet news site reported. The man refused and began threatening the other passengers and some crew members, and threw punches at several.

“My cousins are going to kill everybody,” the man said, according to the report.

One passenger told Ynet that people who tried to separate the combatants were themselves hit.

“The flight attendants lost control and also yelled at us passengers to delete whatever we had filmed. Basically it was major chaos,” she said.

Footage from the flight showed passengers clambering over each other to get away from the fighting as others crowd the aisles and children cry in the background.

“Sit down and be quiet now! Sit down now! There are kids here,” one man shouts.

Channel 12 said the man eventually put a mask on.

“It’s lucky it ended like it did and didn’t get more violent,” one passenger told the network. “It could have easily ended in a violent brawl with injuries.”

Health Ministry guidelines and those of the airline require all passengers to wear masks.

Before the flight touched down in Israel, the company called police, who detained the passengers involved in the brouhaha before releasing them shortly after.

Footprints in the sand, taken on a beach on Mahe island, Seychelles, March 1, 2019. (AP Photo/David Keyton)

Arkia said in a statement: “On a flight from the Seychelles some passengers started an argument over mask-wearing. The argument got heated and escalated into verbal and physical violence between the passengers. The service manager was called by passengers, he arrived on scene, and with the help of the crew separated the passengers who were fighting. The incident lasted several minutes and afterward the flight continued without any special incidents.”

Seychelles declared Israel a “green zone” with low infection rates last month, meaning travelers from Israel do not need to quarantine upon arrival. The Health Ministry also considers Seychelles a green zone, so travelers do not need to enter isolation after returning to Israel either.

Thousands of Israelis have visited the popular tourist destination since flights began operating late last month.

Travelers need to present a negative coronavirus test and sign a health declaration prior to flying out to the country.

Israel lifted an unpopular ban on citizens flying out of the country on October 15, as part of initial steps to ease the nationwide coronavirus lockdown. The flight ban had been part of a slew of restrictions added on September 25 to reinforce a lockdown that began a week earlier.

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