WATCH: Southwest Airlines ’regrets any inconvenience’ after removing child with autism from flight for refusing to wear mask
By Shannon McMahon
Washington - When Southwest Airlines updated its mask policy to require "all customers over the age of two to wear a face covering or mask while travelling to help prevent the transmission of Covid-19", many travellers rejoiced.
The no-tolerance policy is in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that face coverings be worn by everyone over that age.
But on August 10, Southwest removed a family from one of its flights when a three-year-old was unable to wear his mask on a flight from Midland, Texas, to Houston. The child has autism and does not like his face covered, the mother told Houston's KPRC-TV, and she had a doctor's note confirming as much.
"He was screaming. He was throwing a fit. He was screaming 'no, no, no,' " she told the news station. "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 also took to social media to voice her frustration.
"When you get kicked off your flight because your three year old autistic child won't wear a mask... looks like I'm stuck here in midland," she wrote in a Facebook post, commenting on her own post that she was "disgusted by how my son was treated and how I was treated." Customers weighed in supporting the mother on social media, as well.
In a statement to The Washington Post, Southwest said it regrets "any inconvenience this family experienced. Customers are informed of the policy on our website during booking, in a pre-trip email sent prior to departure, and during a required acknowledgement that's part of the Customer Health Declaration Form which appears during the online check-in process on the Southwest app, Southwest.com and Southwest's mobile website".
The airline also says it issues a full refund when an individual is removed from a flight for being unable to wear a mask.
Alaska, American, Frontier, JetBlue, United and Spirit airlines all have similar policies in place, requiring face coverings for travellers over the age of two without mention of any exceptions for medical conditions or disabilities.