Family Allegedly Removed From Southwest Flight After Autistic Child Wouldn't Wear Face Mask

A Texas mother says she and her family were kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight after her autistic three-year-old son would not wear a face mask.

“He was screaming. He was throwing a fit. He was screaming ‘no, no, no,’” Alyssa Sadler said of the ordeal. “You’ve got to have some kind of exemption, especially for people with disabilities.”

Southwest’s new face mask policy went into effect on August 8, including that anyone over the age of two must wear a mask.

The incident happened Monday, August 11, on what was scheduled to be a short flight from Midland, Texas, to Houston. Sadler was traveling with her son and a year-old daughter when the plane left the gate. But it turned around and returned after a crew member apparently told the pilots that the boy would not keep his mask on.

“They’re going over the security safety features and all that, and the flight attendant walks by and tells me that he has to put a mask on,” Sadler said. “So, I try to put the mask on him. He is 3 and has autism and sensory processing disorders, so he wouldn’t keep the mask on.”

Sadler said the captain announced the reason for the early return over the loudspeaker, telling the plane that a non-compliant passenger refused to wear a facial covering. From there, Sadler said an escort helped remove her family’s luggage and that airline officials later wrote up her son for noncompliance to the carrier’s policy.

Sadler said she absolutely agreed with the face mask policy on airlines, but “No 3-year-old, who is autistic and has sensory processing disorder, is going to put anything on their face. He’s supposed to wear glasses. I can’t even get him to wear his glasses to help him see. He just doesn’t understand. He doesn’t like things touching his face, so he’s not going to put a mask on.”

A spokesperson for Southwest Airlines shared a lengthy statement with Fox News:

“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 acknowledgment that’s part of the Customer Health Declaration Form which appears during the online check-in process on the Southwest app, Southwest.com, and Southwest’s mobile website.

“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 on board in the future, if public health guidance regarding face coverings changes. “At Southwest, safety and caring for others with our Southwest Hearts is at the center of everything that 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.”

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