Another chapter in our volume of stories on two-year-olds being thrown off airplanes for not being able to keep on a mask. The twist this time, however, is that the child suffers from asthma and his mother tried very hard to keep it on. In attempting to balance competing policy concerns, I maintain that more mercy should be shown toward young children.
Two-Year-Old With Asthma Thrown Off American Airlines Flight
The incident occurred on September 13th onboard American Airlines Flight 1284 from Dallas (DFW) to Colorado (COS). According to Amanda Pendarvis, mother of two-year-old Waylon, after pushing back, a “truly evil, power-tripping” flight attendant noticed the child was having trouble keeping his mask on and demanded that the captain turn the plane around in order to kick off the boy and his mother. On Instagram, she noted:
“He got on the intercom and to say to the entire plane, “I’m sorry for the delay but we are dealing with a non-compliant traveler…
“I was not refusing a mask, nor did I even say I wouldn’t try to keep a mask on my son. We were escorted off the plane as I was holding a mask over his little face. I genuinely don’t have words.”
Waylon suffers from asthma and this was his first time wearing a mask. While American Airlines does offer a disability exemption, as required by federal law, it requires passengers to obtain one in advance. The Penarvis family did not.
An American Airlines spokesperson noted:
Initial reports indicate the party refused to comply with crew member instructions to remain seated and wear a face mask securely over their nose and mouth. After agreeing to adhere to federal face covering requirements, all individuals were rebooked for travel on the next flight to Colorado Springs.
We were not priviied to the interaction between the flight attendant and Penarvis family. Therefore, I will exercise caution before condemning the flight attendant as being overzealous. Certainly some will defend him for simply doing his job.
Stories like these draw my attention not so much because I believe that children cannot receive or spread COVID-19, but because I maintain that in a complicated world, rules must bend at times. Compassion is a public health concern as well. While the child may have put others at risk by not keeping his mask on, there was a very clear and apparent health risk at play: he could not properly breathe with the mask on.
Thus, it becomes an issue of bureaucracy. Kick the family off because they didn’t fill out the form before? It is in these cases that I would interpret exceptions to the rule more generously, on compassionate health grounds.
I realize that many come to a different conclusion and I’ve heard all the arguments before (just like you’ve heard mine). But I will continue to write about these incidents because as a parent of two young children, they do bother me. My son, four, has no trouble keeping a mask on. He probably would have when he was two (thankfully, before the pandemic). Hopefully my daughter will not have trouble next May when she turns two or the mask mandate will be long gone.
H/T: Paddle Your Own Kanoo // images: Amanda Pendarvis / Instargram