It was only last month that Southwest Airlines kicked off an autistic three-year-old for not wearing a mask. Over the weekend, Southwest kicked off a two-year-old for the same reason. His mother claims he was eating. I claim enough is enough…
Southwest Kicks Off Two-Year-Old For Not Wearing Mask
The incident occurred on a flight from Fort Myers (RSW) to Chicago (MDW) on Saturday.
Two-year-old Hayes boarded the flight and was eating a snack prior to the flight. On “multiple” occasions flight attendants told Hayes that the mask must remain on. His mother, Jodi Degyansky, insisted that he was eating. Flight attendants pushed back and said that he was “eating” only as an excuse not to wear a mask.
The flight eventually pushed back from the gate but returned after Hayes was “caught” again with his mask off.
Upon returning to the gate, Hayes and his mother were escorted off the flight. Southwest offered to rebook them on a later flight, but there were no direct connections available, so they booked on American Airlines instead at a cost of $600.
To complicate matters, Southwest did not enforce its mask policy on the way out, according to , Degyansky. She pleads for mercy:
“We are trying to get used to it, but he’s two.”
In fact, he just turned two a couple weeks ago.
Southwest Defends Child Mask Policy
Southwest, for its part, claims to be investigating the incident, but insists its policy is clearly-communized:
“If a Customer is unable to wear a face covering for any reason, Southwest regrets that we are unable to transport the individual. In those cases, we will issue a full refund and hope to welcome the Customer onboard in the future, if public health guidance regarding face coverings changes. Caring for others with our Southwest Hearts is at the center of everything we do, which is especially important during this pandemic. We appreciate the ongoing support and spirit of cooperation among our Customers and Employees as we collectively take care of each other while striving to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
This is its boilerplate response to any mask questions.
I Now View The Policy As Indefensible
Southwest clearly conveys its expectations. Even if an exception was made on the outbound flight, it does not mean an exception had to be offered on the return flight. Furthermore, Southwest Airlines is clearly within its legal rights to require customers to wear a mask, even as young as two years old.
But that doesn’t mean it is the right policy. As I study how other governments who have more successfully attacked COVID-19 than the USA treat masking children, I am increasingly convinced it is cruel and unreasonable to throw toddlers off flights for being unable to keep a mask on.
Look at other airlines around the world: young children don’t have to wear a mask. On Lufthansa, children under six are exempt. On British Airways, children under 11 are exempt. In fact, UK Department of Health strongly discourages face coverings for children under the age of three for health and safety reasons. On Cathay Pacific, children under six are exempt. On Emirates, children under six are exempt.
My assessment of this flight was that the kid probably couldn’t keep a mask on. The whole “he’s eating” thing is indeed just an excuse to keep the mask off.
But for goodness sakes, does the rest of the world have wunderkinds that don’t get sick? Or must we constantly conduct cost-benefit analysis to gauge risk? Perhaps asking very young children to keep on masks is simply not necessary in an environment with downward airflow and HEPA filters (and on Southwest, open middle seats)?
Masks can be helpful tools in the fight against the spread of any virus. But when we let rules overrule common sense, we wind up with headline after headline about two-year-olds being thrown off flight in the Untied States (and Canada). I think it’s time to be more lenient.
Do you think it is time to update the child mask policy at Southwest and other airlines?