As we adjust to the new normal of the ongoing pandemic, questions come up that can be difficult to answer. Our society looks for ways to accommodate those with disabilities and the safety of the public.
However, Southwest Airlines found themselves in a pickle earlier this week, when a passenger’s 3-year-old child refused to wear a mask.
They ended up removing him and his family from the flight.
Alyssa Sadler from Houston, TX was flying home after spending the week with her husband, who’s currently working in Midland, TX. She told the NBC Houston affiliate her story.
As she describes it:
“It was just not a good morning.”
As the plane was preparing for take-off a flight attendant saw Sadler’s son without a mask and informed her, he would need to put one on.
Sadler tried, but to no avail.
“He was screaming. He was throwing a fit. He was screaming no, no, no.”
Sadler’s son has a sensory processing disorder and doesn’t like his face touched. While she had a doctor’s note about the situation, the airline still enforced their rules.
To many online, this was not a great response.
Oh come on. He’s THREE and has AUTISM. She had a note! I’m all for mask-wearing but that’s over the top. https://t.co/FCuT0g9JP0
— Mom of 3 (@thisdayismine1) August 13, 2020
Oh look, some wild ableism appears! https://t.co/258k0FBDup
— Sienna (@CForever11) August 14, 2020
— Lois Romano (@loisromano) August 13, 2020
Shame on @SouthwestAir
— thelizwiley (@thelizwiley) August 13, 2020
I thought that was pretty sad. @SouthwestAir you need to have a good supportive policy to consider children w/intellectual challenges, autism, etc.
I just heard a story about a dog that got way more customer service than this sweet child with autism. Smh
— DB (@DianeB24_7) August 11, 2020
The plane returned to the gate, and the Sadlers were forced to disembark. They got their luggage back and the boy was written up for non-compliance with the airline’s policies.
Sadler wears her mask everywhere, but believes there should be exceptions.
“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.”
This conflict comes from Southwest Airline announcing in July that they were eliminating mask exemptions for medical reasons they had allowed until then.
Southwest Airline has responded to the story, issuing a statement on the matter.
“Southwest Airlines requires all Customers over the age of two to wear a face covering or mask while traveling to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19. We communicate this policy to all Customers at multiple touchpoints throughout the travel journey, so we regret 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.”
Anyone who is removed for not complying with the policy does receive a full refund.
However, this story illustrates the problem when these rules have to be enforced with zero tolerance, because some people refuse to wear a mask.
So the question becomes, what can we do about this?
He could wear a shield.
— Patricia (@peonies12) August 11, 2020
The mother should have known the kid wouldn't wear one and not tried getting on a plane in the first place.
— Mary Kirkland (@scarymary66) August 12, 2020
How would the reactions be if the story was ‘4 people die from coronavirus after airline allows child infected to fly with no mask’?
— Doug Boucher (@dougybuckets) August 13, 2020
Then people would've complain if @SouthwestAir would've let them in with no mask. No matter what people never satisfied. Specially in NV.
— Grajales (@Carlovesfam) August 12, 2020
People will debate over this story online. And since the FAA has not issued any federal requirements on masks, the airlines themselves are coming up with their own policies.
But maybe these kind of hardline rules wouldn’t be necessary if everyone who could wear a mask did, instead of protesting a safety guidance. Just a thought.