A JetBlue passenger who flew from New York to Florida while awaiting test results for COVID-19 has been banned from flying with the airline for life.
The news comes after JetBlue Flight 253, which arrived at Palm Beach International Airport (PBIA) on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m, was held on the tarmac for three hours while medical personnel helped to remove two elderly passengers. The rest of the flight’s 112 passengers were eventually allowed to leave the aircraft at 11:30 p.m.
JetBlue later said that one of the passengers on the plane had previously been tested for the coronavirus, and that he had boarded the flight knowing that he was awaiting the results. Health and fire officials said the passenger’s test came back positive, though it’s unclear exactly when the passenger learned of the COVID-19 diagnosis.
Another traveler aboard the flight told CNBC that the passenger learned he was infected with the coronavirus via a text message while still on the flight, and was overheard speaking about the diagnosis by crew members. JetBlue, however, did not say exactly how they were informed of the situation.
In a statement shared with Fox News, JetBlue confirmed the passenger had been banned from flying with the airline “in the future.”
“The health and safety of our customers and crewmembers is our first priority. In reviewing last night’s event, we determined the customer boarded our flight knowing he was awaiting results for a coronavirus test without disclosing it to anyone at JetBlue,” the airline wrote in a statement.
“Consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, we ask all customers who are not feeling well, who believe they may have coronavirus, or who are awaiting test results to avoid travel until they are cleared by a medical professional," it continued.
“Last night’s event put our crewmembers, customers, and federal and local officials in an unsettling situation that could have easily been avoided, and as such, this customer will not be permitted to fly on JetBlue in the future.”
The CDC currently says the risk of infection spreading on airplanes is "low," as "most viruses and other germs do not spread easily" due to the ventilation systems in place on aircraft. Still, passengers should remain cautious, avoid contact with anyone exhibiting symptoms and wash or sanitize hands often, according to CDC guidelines.
Experts have also shared tips for passengers who wish to disinfect their plane seats and personal areas during air travel.