A Texas woman has 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. The woman said that the flight was pushed back from the gate and later returned to the gate after her son refused to put on the mask, when they were asked to get off the aircraft.
Southwest requires all its passengers to wear face masks on board and lately tightened its policy 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 child is autistic. The woman said that the airline should have been more considerate given the condition of her son.
Not a Crime
Houston resident Alyssa Sadler said that her Southwest flight from Midland, Texas, to Houston returned to the gate after her son refused to use the protective mask despite continuous requests from the airline crew. The incident happened on Monday. On returning to the gate, without giving Sadler a chance, she along with her family, including her one-year-old daughter, was asked to exit the plane for not complying with the safety guidelines.
The three-year-old, according to Sadler, has a sensory process disorder and started screaming when he was asked to put on the mask after they boarded the flight. There were repeated attempts till the gates were locked and the flight was about to depart but Sadler's son continued refusing. Sadler said she completely agrees with the face mask policy on a flight and follows that strictly.
However, she tried to make the airline crew understand that her son has a sensory processing disorder and would resist anything on his face. "He's supposed to wear glasses. I can't even get him to wear his glasses to help him see. He just doesn't understand. He doesn't like things touching his face, so he's not going to put a mask on," she said.
A Catch-22 Situation
Sadler said that she was carrying a note from her son's doctor but the airline refused to listen to her. The family was returning from visiting Sadler's husband, who is on a temporary job away from home. "I think there needs to be something in place for children or even adults with disabilities who can't wear a mask. They should have some kind of exemption," she said.
Sadler and her children are still stuck in Midland and a family member will drive the family home later this week. Southwest Airlines is yet to comment on the incident. The airline, which announced its Covid-19 policy in July, requires all passengers to use face masks while traveling. The rule is pointed out during online booking and also in a pre-trip e-mail during the check-in process.
The airline further tightened its mask policy following incidents of unruly passengers refusing to follow the Covid-19 guidelines on other airlines. The airline last month said that no exemptions will be given on wearing face masks except to children under two years old. However, Sadler's family will receive a full refund for the flight.