A Chicago mom has said she and her toddler son were kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight on Saturday because he got distracted and opened his face mask. Jodi Degyansky alleged that her two-year-old son was eating snacks on the plane before it took off from Florida to Midway Airport in Chicago, when a an airport gate agent came up to her and asked both of them to leave the flight.
This isn't the first time that such an incident has happened on a Southwest Airline flight. Last month, a Texas woman had alleged that she and her family were kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight after her three-year-old autistic son refused to wear a face mask. Southwest requires all its passengers to wear face masks on board following several incidents where customers didn't follow the mask policy. However, in this situation neither of the parties can be blamed given that the incident involved a toddler.
Not a Crime
Degyansky said the crew of Southwest Airlines Flight 2420 approached her when her son was eating at the start of the lunchtime with his face mask resting under his chin as the flight pushed back from the gate and began to taxi. She said that her son got partially distracted after seeing the snacks but till then had his mask on.
The incident was partially captured on video, which begins when a Fort Meyers Airport gate agent is already asking Degyansky and her son to leave the flight. "They said 'Families have been using eating as an excuse so their kids don't have to wear masks,'" Degyansky said. '"I said 'That's absolutely not the case here.'"
Degyansky said she felt embarrassed when the pilot turned back after already driving away from the gate. "A couple minutes later, we were pulled back into the gate and I was asked to leave the plane accompanied by the manager, the supervisor, the flight attendants and the pilot," she said.
Degyansky said that she was following all the required guidelines but had called for leniency and understanding for parents trying their hardest to manage restless young children. The ordeal was "emotional and traumatic" for her son, Hayes Jarboe, who had just turned two a couple of weeks back.
Southwest Airline tightened its mask policy further last month following incidents of unruly passengers refusing to follow the Covid-19 guidelines on other airlines. The airline at that time also said that no exemptions will be given on wearing face masks except to children under two years old. "We do acknowledge there may be times when a customer needs to briefly remove their face covering, for instance, to eat, drink, or take medicine," reads a Southwest's mask policy on its website. However, even then Degyansky wasn't shown any leniency and asked to leave the flight.
Degyansky later got her luggage and went back through security, paying almost $600 for an American flight home. On that flight, she said, her son slept maskless, as American Airlines doesn't require masks until age three. Degyansky and her son is also abiding by that 14-day quarantine, Florida is on Chicago's travel quarantine list.