Southwest Airlines removed a passenger and her 3-year-old son from a Monday flight after the boy, who has autism, refused to wear a mask and have become upset.
Passenger Alyssa Sadler, who was also traveling together with her 1-year-old daughter, told CNN affiliate KPRC that the family was deplaned from the Southwest flight from Midland, Texas, to Houston, Texas.
“It was just not an honest morning,” said Sadler. “He was screaming. He was throwing a fit. He was screaming no, no, no.”
Sadler didn’t answer CNN’s request for comment.
Sadler told KPRC her son features a sensory processing disorder and doesn’t like his face being touched which she had a medical note explaining the condition.
Sadler added the family previously had been ready to fly from Houston to Midland without a problem. They were visiting Sadler’s husband, who is functioning in Midland.
Strict mask policy
The Monday flight had left the gate in Midland, but the plane rotated when it became clear the kid wasn’t getting to wear a mask during the journey.
Southwest Airlines features a strict mask policy that needs all passengers 2 and older to wear a mask or face covering for the duration of the flight.
A mask policy was originally introduced in early May and from July 27, the airline introduced mandatory face coverings with “no exemptions,” aside from for youngsters younger than 2.
The airline said if a customer cannot wear a mask “for any reason,” Southwest “will be unable to move the individual.”
The carrier added that in those instances, a full refund is going to be issued and that they “hope to welcome the customer onboard within the future if public health guidance regarding face coverings changes.”
From August 8, the airline clarified what sorts of face coverings are allowed, stipulating that masks with exhaust valves or people who can’t be secured under the chin aren’t accepted.
The airline also told CNN that customers are informed of the policy on the web site during booking, in an email before departure, and through the check-in process.
‘There shouldn’t be any exceptions’
In a CNN interview on Wednesday, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly emphasized the no-exceptions policy when asked about the incident.
“What we’ve concluded is there shouldn’t be any exceptions, because the exception might be someone who has the virus,” Kelly told CNN’s, Poppy Harlow.
“I’m very empathetic. I’m a grandfather. I even have small grandchildren and that I skill kids are often, but it’s just a matter of creating sure that it’s a secure environment for everybody including all those families.”
Sadler added that she had no issue with wearing a mask during the flight but believes certain travelers should be exempt from the rule.
“I think there must be something in situ for youngsters or maybe adults with disabilities who can’t wear a mask. they ought to have some quite exemption,” she said.
Many US airlines are taking a tough line on masks, with carriers including Delta, American Airlines, and United adopting a policy of banning passengers from future flights if they fail to wear a mask.
Delta recently told CNN that “well over 100 people” have refused to stay their mask on for the duration of the journey and been subsequently banned from flying on the airline.
It is currently up to individual US airlines to make a decision about their passenger mask policy. The FAA has not issued a federal requirement.