Southwest Airlines abducts boy with autism and his family on face mask

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(CNN) – Southwest Airlines pulled a female passenger and her 3-year-old son from a Monday flight after the boy, with autism, refused to wear a face mask and got angry. Passenger Alyssa Sadler, who was also traveling with her one-year-old daughter, told CNN affiliate KPRC that the family had been disembarked from the southwest flight from Midland, TX to Houston, TX.

“It just wasn’t a good morning,” Sadler said. ” He was shouting. He was having a fit. He was screaming no, no, no. “

Sadler said her son had a sensory processing disorder and didn’t like having his face touched and that she had a medical note explaining the condition.

Sadler added that the family had previously been able to fly from Houston to Midland without a problem. They were visiting Sadler’s husband, who works in Midland.

Strict mask policy

Monday’s flight had left the Midland Gate, but the plane turned around when it became clear the child was not going to be wearing a mask on the trip.

Southwest Airlines has a strict mask policy that requires all passengers 2 years of age and older to wear a mask or face shield for the duration of the flight.

A face mask policy was introduced in early May, and from July 27, the airline introduced mandatory “no exemptions” face protectors except for children under 2 years old.

The airline said if a customer cannot wear a face mask “for whatever reason,” Southwest “will not be able to transport the individual. “

The carrier added that in these cases a full refund will be issued and they “hope to welcome the customer on board in the future if public health guidelines regarding face covers change.”

As of August 8, the airline clarified what types of face covers are allowed, stipulating that masks with exhaust valves or those that cannot be attached under the chin are not accepted.

The airline also told CNN that customers are made aware of the policy on the website when booking, in an email before departure, and during the check-in process.

“There should be no exceptions”

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly says there are no exceptions to the mask rule because one of those people could be a carrier of the virus.

CNN

In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly underscored the no-exception policy when asked about the incident.

“What we concluded is that there shouldn’t be any exceptions because the exception could be someone who has the virus,” Kelly told CNN’s Poppy Harlow.

“I am very empathetic. I am a grandfather. I have small grandchildren and I know how children can be, but it’s just a matter of making sure it’s a safe environment for everyone including all of these families. “

Sadler added that she had no problem wearing a mask during the flight, but believes some travelers should be exempt from the rule.

“I think there has to be something in place for children or even adults with disabilities who cannot wear masks. They should have some sort of exemption, ”she said.

Many U.S. airlines are taking a tough stance on masks, with carriers such as Delta, American Airlines and United adopting a policy of banning passengers from future flights if they are not wearing a mask.

Delta recently told CNN that “more than 100 people” refused to wear their masks for the duration of the trip and were subsequently banned from flying with the airline.

It is currently up to individual US airlines to decide their passenger mask policy. The FAA has not issued a federal requirement.

CNN’s Jeremy Grisham and Margaret Dawson contributed to this report

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