Photo: Yi-Chin Lee, Houston Chronicle / Staff Photographer
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When a Houston-area mom saw her autistic son struggle to keep his mask on during a Southwest Airlines flight, she knew it was going to be a tough trip. But she never expected to be kicked off the flight.
“He was screaming. He was throwing a fit. He was screaming, no, no, no,” Houston-area mom Alyssa Sadler told KPRC.
Sadler’s son has a sensory processing disorder and doesn’t like to have his face touched. She actually had a note on hand from her son’s doctor about his condition, but that didn’t matter.
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“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 told KTRK. “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.”
At the point, the flight attendant then alerted the captain of the issue, and he then asked her son to please put his mask on.
“The mask is not going to work,” Sadler told the flight crew. “He’s not going to wear the mask.”
Although the flight to Midland initially left the gate, the crew turned back when her son wouldn’t keep his mask on.
So, the policy according to Southwest Airlines is that all customers over age 2 need to cover their faces while onboard to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The airlines spells it out clearly in the online booking and check-in process.
“If a customer is unable to wear a face covering for any reason (even a verifiable medical condition), we regret that we are unable to transport the Customer at this time, due to safety risk of asymptomatic COVID-19 transmission by Customers without face coverings,” Southwest Airlines states.
Sadler explained that she has no issue wearing a mask on board, but believes there should be certain medical exemptions for those who have disabilities and cannot wear a mask.
“I think there needs to be something in place for children or even adults with disabilities who can’t wear a mask,” Sadler said. “They should have some kind of exemption.”
Effective July 27, Southwest ended face mask exemptions for passengers over the age of 2 and suspended medical exceptions for PPE, due to the guidance from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.