Spirit Airlines kicked off an autistic four-year-old child who could not keep his mask on, even though his parents had a doctor’s note and he had no trouble on his outbound Spirit flights without a mask.
Spirit Airlines Kicks Off Family Because Autistic Child Could Not Keep Mask On
Callie Kimball and her family flew Spirit Airlines to Las Vegas last Friday without a problem. She was traveling with her four-year-old boy who has non-verbal autism and cannot keep a mask on. Kimball noted:
“I had a medical note from his physician stating that he’s exempt from wearing masks because whenever he wears a mask he holds his breath or he starts freaking out and he will harm himself.”
That was sufficient on the outbound journey.
But the Kimballs encountered a problem on their return journey. In Las Vegas, the family was informed, after boarding, that their son must wear a mask. The note did not work and Spirit allegedly even denied that autism was a disability. As Kimball shared:
“He has a disability. It’s protected under the American Disability Act and they go, ‘No no no. Autism’s not a disability. He has to wear a mask or he has to get off the plane.’
“Kids on the [autism] spectrum, they’re usually very obsessed with something.He is obsessed with airplanes. So he was sitting in his seat, quietly and looking out the window, and this lady was like, ‘Get off!'”
The family asked American Airlines if it would accommodate them and AA, after examining the doctor’s note, agreed.
A Spirit Airlines spokesperson noted:
“Our existing policy does not provide for medical exemptions, regardless of diagnosis. Our team members explained this to a family traveling today, but never questioned anyone’s medical status in the process.
“Starting March 19, 2021, guests with a medical disability who are traveling on or after March 22, 2021 can apply for an exemption as provided for in the federal mandate requiring masks in airports and on planes.”
Is that delay justified?
A Loophole In the Federal Mandate
The new federal mask mandate, signed as an Agency Order by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), explicitly allows an exemption for passengers with disabilities who cannot wear a mask.
However, it permitted an open-ended notice requirement that airlines have used to dodge the immediate consequences of the new mandate.
“Operators may further require that persons seeking exemption from the requirement to wear a mask request an accommodation in advance.”
Furthermore, it has yet to issue additional guidance on what constitutes a disability:
“This is a narrow exception that includes a person with a disability who cannot wear a mask for reasons related to the disability. CDC will issue additional guidance regarding persons who cannot wear a mask under this exemption.”
It does seem Spirit Airlines has some wiggle room.
Did The Family Have Notice?
Spirit says the family should have known better:
“We remind guests of our face covering policy throughout the booking process, in a pre-trip email sent prior to departure, and in a required acknowledgement that is part of the check-in procedure.”
This is a powerful point in favor of Spirit’s position, assuming the family booked through Spirit Airlines and not an online travel agency which did not clearly disclose this information. Nevertheless, Spirit’s inconsistent application and blatant error in insinuating that autism is not a disability should earn our scorn. I’m pleased that American Airlines agreed to accommodate the family.
I do not believe passengers like a four-year-old with autism should have to wear masks on airplanes. We need to deal with the fact that asking those with disabilities not to fly is selfish and not a permanent solution to co-existing with a virus.
Perhaps the family should have known better. Presenting a note on the day of travel is not as ideal as reaching out to the airline in advance to make arrangements. But they had no trouble on their outbound because the rules did not overrule common sense. The family had no trouble flying home on American Airlines because the rules did not overrun common sense.
It seems to me that the only people who really are opposed to letting people like autistic four-year-olds fly without masks are those who think everyone should not be forced to wear a mask on “fairness” grounds. To that, I say be thankful you do not have autism.
image: KTVH-TV / Fair Use Exception
This is the America you wanted……relish it.
Wouldn’t common sense dictate that Spirit was given advanced notice on the return leg when they presented the doctors note on the outbound leg of the trip? Since they had R/T tickets. Is it the families fault the note was not properly documented in Spirits system? Either way, nothing about what is going on nowadays is done with common sense, so with that said. Screw Spirit for doing that to a 4 year old. Much less one with Autism.
This is a real case of should they fly or not. I’m leaning towards the parents but…autism is a spectrum and my best friend has an autistic son and it really confuses my need for protection versus the rights of others and their disabled child. I really don’t have an answer for this.
@Chris- agreed! The madness needs to stop! Screw Spirit, and screw all these stupid ass do nothing rules, and constantly changing goal posts.
Government is evil. Flight attendants are now more like the NKVD who play the role of federal agents instead of cabin crew who provide service and ensure aircraft and flight safety. Flight attendants in the U.S. are known (and especially now) to abuse their power for things which have nothing to do with safety. A person fidgeting with a mask or complaining about poor service received by flight attendants does not call for removal or calling the gulag squads known as cops and the feds. I thought airlines learned something with the situation a few years back on United.
There’s a special place in hell reserved for these loathsome pedants making life so difficult for people( as if the parents don’t have enough on their plates in dealing with the challenges of autism). There is room for common sense, but these petty martinets seem bereft of any.
“It seems to me that the only people who really are opposed to letting people like autistic four-year-olds fly without masks are those who think everyone should not be forced to wear mask on “fairness” grounds. To that, I say be thankful you do not have autism.”
What a asinine statement. Get off your sanctimonious soapbox. This isn’t about fairness, it’s about following the rules. The parents didn’t follow the rules. Full stop. If the kid had an exemption and Spirit agreed, I could care less that that he wasn’t in a mask. Granted it appears that Spirit should have caught this at departure, and possibly handled better. I’m not sure what the correct answer is on this.
You seem to always pick this “poor” kid stories since they are good clickbait. You should direct your angst to their moronic parents who decided to take their kids on a plane when it was apparently obvious, he couldn’t wear a mask.
No worries, they got their 15 seconds. They’ll sue and take advantage of sympathy for; kids, disabilities, people from AR, NK haters, etc. Good for them, you just feed the trolls.
The same theory applies to service animals, which got out of control and forced the airlines to make much stricter rules. That’s why the rules are what they are, and if you don’t like it, Drive.
I struck a chord, didn’t I?
Rules are points at which deviation is measured from. Exceptions are vital. An exception was appropriate here. Thank you American Airlines.
@Matt, the issue isn’t striking a chord, it’s the fact that you use false sympathy to cause outrage. And you feed the beast that requires all companies to enforce stricter standards and rules without the benefit of flexibility. It’s sad you don’t see the irony.
As I stated, if the parents followed the rules and Spirit agreed, fine he can fly without a mask. No incident, no false outrage. Nobody is saying there can’t be exceptions. If they followed the stated procedures they likely would have gotten an exception. But you can’t make rules that are so flexible and discretionary that there’s no point having a rule in the first place, e.g., emotional support animals. The fact that you once again pick a child/dependent and say that just because they have a disability I’m allowed to risk the health and safety of the employees and other passengers is preposterous.
But the law is very specific that we as parents are responsible for our children’s well being as long as they are under our care. If my two kids did something illegal or stupid which caused harm or damage, my wife and I are responsible. This kid’s parents have the responsibility to take care of their child. I guess they feel going on TV is a better remedy.
This is my problem with your statement:
The science does not back you up. The risk is de minimis.
Even more importantly, protecting the dignity of the disabled, young or small, is worth a certain risk. I am much more comfortable increasing my risk for COVID-19, if ever so slightly, than denying passage to a child who literally cannot keep a mask on due to a genetic disorder.
Does using Latin make you smarter?
Do these parents pay to you post this stuff.
The science is definitely showing the children are less prone to transmission, but it’s not zero. It’s also only for kids under 12 (if memory serves). Sound like under your logic, no kids should have to wear masks. Why bother?
Regardless, it doesn’t matter. A private company can make their own rules. It’s not really much up for debate.
The parents have the responsibility for providing their child “dignity.” If the parents had followed the rules, they could have preserved their own, and their child’s dignity. But if you allow people to circumvent rules and make it up as they go along, that’s called chaos.
If @wpr8e has a hard time with people circumventing rules and making up things as they go along, I’d encourage him to avoid dealing with any of AA’s ground staff in Miami. It surely is chaos.
As for the child and his family, this is a situation that could have been easily mitigated with a little bit of empathy and common sense. I agree that we should all be willing to sacrifice a little bit for the dignity of the disabled. I’m glad AA was able to get them home.
Spirit Airlines has already been acknowledged as having the lowest scores on Covid mitigation strategies. Why anyone would fly them, despite the bargain basement fares, raises into question their personal safety concerns. Yes I once was a frequent flyer on Spirit but “ never again “. You get what you pay for.
There are always 2 sides of a story! People can purchase airline tickets and travel on several different airlines that policies can differ on one trip alone. Maybe these parents are just exploiting their child for a few moments of fame!!