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NFTA police deal with "irate man" over masks in Buffalo airport

NFTA Police called for few mask-related cases since March
Buffalo Niagara International Airport Police Reports
Posted at 3:00 PM, Oct 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-19 07:30:08-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The 7 Eyewitness News I-Team has learned, nearly two dozen TSA workers, 21 of whom are luggage screeners, have tested positive for COVID at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, since the pandemic began. That's relatively low compared to other airports.

But ahead of the holiday travel season, The White House has extended mask wearing-- at airports-- through the beginning of the new year. The FAA, TSA and even local police are on high alert after reports of unruly passengers.

Nationwide, airlines have reported more than 4,700 incidents of unruly passengers, to the Federal Aviation Administration. The I-Team has discovered, as of October 12, 73% of those airlines' claims-- just over 3,400 reports-- were mask related.

That's across the country, but here in Buffalo, those numbers don't even compare.

"It's surprising a bit, but understandable," said Helen Tederous, the NFTA's Director of Public Affairs. "We tried very hard to get signage up early on -- you hear the announcements every 20 seconds, so we've done everything we can to make sure people are aware."

Tederous says, the state mask mandate is helping them enforce the rules. She says other places are having hard time, with unruly passengers, because there isn't a state mask mandate in effect.

In Buffalo, Tederous says there have been complaints about masks, but NFTA Police have only had to step in a number of times.

The 7 Eyewitness News I-Team has learned, there have been eight cases, where police have been called to assist for issues with passengers not wearing masks-- on flights-- or throughout the terminal.

In August, police describe dealing with an irate man. They say in a police report, obtained by the I-Team through a Freedom of Information Law request, the man was angered people were not wearing their mask as mandated.

Transit Authority Police Reports at Buffalo Airport by Sean Mickey on Scribd

"Those have been escalated to the point of having to have police," Tederous said. "There are a lot of incidences and a lot of complaints that don't get to that point that we've seen."

The NFTA says Buffalo hasn't seen issues other airports have, in part because of the total volume of people passing through. With the Canadian border closed to land travel, many Canadian travelers are not using the Buffalo airport as they did pre-pandemic.

Still, the FAA says it has zero tolerance for unruly behavior.

Fines for not wearing a mask went up last month, from up to $1500 dollars to up to $3,000. The highest fines are for repeat offenders.

It does not appear any of the eight cases in Buffalo involved arrests or fines.