BALTIMORE (WJZ) — We’re all trying to take steps to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially wearing a mask when traveling.

But one man said he was recently taken off a flight because of the mask he was wearing.

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Rob Joseph said he was taken off his United flight from Newark, New Jersey to Tampa, Florida earlier this month because of the specialty face mask he was wearing.


“I wasn’t trying to say, ‘I don’t want to wear a mask.’ I was doing the complete opposite to advocate for our own health and safety,” Joseph said.

When he got to the gate, he was handed a different mask.

“They were like, here, you can wear this. And I was like, no, really, I’m okay. It’s fully filtered. It’s a lot safer,” Joseph said.

He put on another mask and walked down the jetway, but that’s when the situation escalated.

“[I] Said, I don’t need to say another word. I’m going to my seat. I’m done with this. And they said you know what, no. We already decided. I already asked you to leave. You’re off the flight.”

Joseph had to wait several hours until the next flight and was confused about why his mask wasn’t allowed on board.

Alex Rattray is the Baltimore-based inventor of the mask called the Narwall. He and several other customers have used it on other flights without a problem, including some operated by United.

“It’s a very intense mask,” Rattray said. “You’re not going to wear this unless you’re pretty concerned.”

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Rattray said Narwall is the first full-face respirator mask that filters exhale air on the way out and is not like older model masks.

“Every breath in, just like an N95 is filtered, and every breath out, just like an N-95, is filtered,” Rattray said.

But he said he can see why airline employees might not be sure it’s allowed on board.

“It’s understandable that airlines might see it and confuse it with those older models that don’t filter the exhale vents,” Rattray said.

In a statement, United said they don’t allow masks that create impediments in emergency scenarios like impacting a customer’s ability to quickly administering oxygen.

They also said they don’t allow masks that require continual replacement of filters.

“We do not allow masks to be worn onboard our aircraft that could create impediments in emergency scenarios, such as impacting a customer’s ability to quickly administer oxygen in the event of the deployment of oxygen masks. We also do not permit masks whose safe usage requires continual replacement of filters, as we cannot assure that our customers have done so.”

Joseph said he was able to fly back home with the Narwall mask on a different airline.

Rattray said he is working with United to try to explain why the mask doesn’t violate any policies.

The Narwall mask will also include informational cards for customers to show airline employees if there are concerns.

You can learn more about the Narwall by clicking here.

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For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Stetson Miller