Southwest reportedly kicks family off flight over fears boy, 3, would remove mask
Southwest Airlines reportedly booted a family with a disabled toddler off a flight — over fears the child would remove his face mask, which he was wearing at the time.
Caroline Scott, of Northglenn, Colorado, advised the airline about 3-year-old Orion’s sensory processing disorder before their flight to Florida on Friday, KDVR reported.
She also provided a note from Orion’s doctor and an occupational therapist amid fears that he might have trouble keeping the mask on for the whole flight to Fort Lauderdale, according to the outlet.
The family said the boy was buckled in his seat and had his mask on when a Southwest employee suddenly ordered them off the plane at the captain’s request.
“She said, ‘You have to get off the plane. The captain doesn’t feel comfortable with your family on it,’” Caroline said. “We were not de-boarded for behaviors, but pre-emptively in case he might take off his mask, and he’s also 3.”
The Federal Aviation Administration requires all passengers age 2 and older to wear a face mask.
“It’s not OK. There was no empathy. There was no understanding. We were just humiliated. It was traumatizing and humiliating,” the furious mom told KDVR.
“We thought we were doing the right thing and for being forefront and honest, we were punished for it,” she added.
The family booked a flight on United for $1,700 the following day, but this time they did not inform the airline about Orion’s disorder and the flight went off with no problems.
“We’re never going to disclose again, and that’s a shame because it should be, ‘How can we support people who need extra support?’ Not ‘Let’s kick them off the plane.’ No family should have to go through this,” Caroline said.
In a statement, Southwest said it “regrets any inconvenience this family experienced while traveling, and our Customer Relations Team is contacting the family directly regarding their experience.
“Southwest Employees are working each day to ensure the requirements of the federal mask mandate with sensitivity during these challenging times,” the company said.
“We appreciate the ongoing understanding and cooperation among our Customers and Employees as we work collectively to support the comfort and wellbeing of all who travel with us during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” it added.
The incident took place two days before Southwest refused to allow an Iowa family to board a flight because their 5-year-old boy who has autism could not wear a mask.
Cody and Paige Petek and their two children were in St. Louis for a connecting flight home to Des Moines International Airport on Sunday when they were turned away, KCCI reported.
Under Transportation Security Administration policy, travelers with disabilities who cannot wear a mask due to their condition are not required to, according to the report.
The airline said the child did not have a face mask exemption.
“Southwest Airlines considers applications for exemptions from this mask requirement from passengers with a disability who cannot wear a mask, or who cannot safely wear a mask because of the disability,” it told KCCI.
“In this case, a traveler was not wearing a face covering prior to boarding and did not have an exemption to the federal mask mandate,” it added.
The airline did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post about whether Orion’s disability is considered an exemption.
This article originally appeared on New York Post