Texas mom says Southwest Airlines kicked her off flight after 'screaming' autistic son, 3, refused to wear mask
HOUSTON, TEXAS: A Texas mom said her family was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight on August 10 because her three-year-old autistic son refused to wear a face mask.
Alyssa Sadler, of Deer Park, said the incident unfolded this past Monday, August 10, while she was trying to get back home from Midland, Texas, with her son and a one-year-old daughter, according to ABC13. She said they initially had no problems and that the flight was about to take off when a crew member came by and told them that the plane would have to return to the gate because her son was refusing to wear a face mask.
"We're getting close to the runway," she said. "They're going over the security safety features and all that, and the flight attendant walks by and tells me that he has to put a mask on. So, I try to put the mask on him." "He was screaming," she recalled to Click2Houston. "He was throwing a fit. He was screaming no, no, no."
Sadler revealed that the three-year-old suffers from a sensory processing disorder and doesn't like it when his face is touched. She said she even had a note from his doctor about his condition but that it did not make any difference to the airline's staff.
"So the captain went back to the front, then he went over the loudspeaker and said that he had a non-compliant passenger that refused to wear a mask and follow the policies so they were heading back to the gate," she said. "We had to head back to the gate. They have an escort take us back to the plane to get all of our luggage off the plane, and then they proceeded to write up my 3-year-old for noncompliance to their policy."
While the airline's website states that children under the age of two are exempt from wearing masks, it also clarifies that anyone above that age will not be allowed to travel on their flights without face covering even if they have notes from doctors exempting them from doing so.
"If a Customer is unable to wear a face covering for any reason (even a verifiable medical condition), we regret that we are unable to transport the Customer at this time, due to safety risk of asymptomatic COVID-19 transmission by Customers without face coverings," the airlines said.
"In other words, because of public health guidance recognizing the important role of face coverings in preventing the transmission of COVID-19, Southwest will temporarily refuse to transport any passenger who is unable to wear a mask even if the Customer has a verifiable medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask," they added.
In a statement addressing the incident, the airline said that all their customers were informed about their policy at multiple touchpoints, including during booking, in a pre-trip email sent prior to departure, and during a required acknowledgment 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.
Sadler claimed she was not aware of this policy and that she had no issues with her son not wearing a mask on their Southwest Airlines flight last week. She insisted she was all for masks but that exceptions should be made.
"I wear my mask everywhere I go. It's not an issue, but you've got to have some kind of exemption, especially for people with disabilities, [and] kids with disabilities," she said. I mean, no 3-year-old, who is autistic and has sensory processing disorder, is going to put anything on their 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."