A Texas woman is claiming she and her family were kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight after her 3-year-old son, who has autism, wouldn’t wear a face mask.
“He was screaming,” Alyssa Sadler told KPRC-TV. “He was throwing a fit. He was screaming, ‘No, no, no.’ It was just not a good morning.”
The flight crew reportedly told Sadler the plane would not depart from Midland to Houston until her son was wearing a mask. The boy’s mother informed her the mask “is not going to work” because he’s “not going to wear” it.
Despite having a doctor’s note explaining the boy’s condition, Southwest employees decided to kick the family off the flight due to the airline’s strict policy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Sadler told flight workers her son had a sensory processing condition and doesn’t like his face to be touched. She gave the note to the crew, but that was apparently not enough to keep them from being booted from the cabin.
“They’re trying to talk to him, tell him, ‘You have to wear it. It’s not an option,’” she recalled. “I’m trying to explain to them, you know, he doesn’t understand what you’re saying.”
After repeated attempts to force the little boy to put on a mask, the captain of the Southwest flight taxied the plane back to the gate, where Sadler, her 3-year-old son, and her 1-year-old daughter were forced to deplane.
The mother-of-two and her children were in Midland to visit her husband, their father, who is working a temporary job.
Sadler, for her part, said she wears a mask everywhere she goes, but said there should be exceptions made, particularly for little children and those with disabilities.
“I think there needs to be something in place for children or even adults with disabilities who can’t wear a mask,” she explained. “They should have some kind of exemption. I mean, no 3-year-old, who is autistic and has sensory processing disorder, is going to put anything on their face.”
Southwest Airlines, though, is sticking by its intensely restrictive policy.
Dan Landson, a spokesperson for the airline, told USA Today they “regret” that it was an “inconvenience” to the family, but stood by the refusal to allow the Sadlers to travel.
“We communicate this policy to all customers at multiple touch points throughout the travel journey, so we regret any inconvenience this family experience. If a customer is unable to wear a face covering for any reason, Southwest regrets that we are unable to transport the individual.”
Southwest has refunded the family entirely and a family member is traveling to Midland Thursday to drive them back to Houston.
News of the Southwest incident comes the same day presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called for a federal mandate requiring all Americans to wear face masks “for the next three months at a minimum,” including when they’re outdoors.