Southwest Kicks Family Off Flight For 3 Year Old With Autism Refusing To Wear A Mask; Has The Pendulum Swung Too Far?

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Most airlines now require that everyone 2 and up wear a mask for the duration of their time at the airport and onboard the flight. Only half of US airlines are actually putting their money where their mouth is by promising empty middle seats in order to promote social distancing.

Here’s the Venn diagram on which airlines require 2 year olds to wear masks and which airlines promise empty middle seats:



I see masks as having a pretty strong ROI. It’s pretty easy for most people to wear a mask and most studies show that masks do help prevent the spread of COVID-19. And it sure beats another lockdown!

I’m all for mask requirements on a plane, but anyone that’s a parent knows that toddlers don’t exactly listen to requirements. Requiring a 2 year old to keep a mask on for the duration of a flight might sound good to a policy maker, but that doesn’t mean it’s practical. One of the many reasons we fly with carseats for our toddlers is so they will be secure in their seats for the entire flight. It’s just too easy for a toddler to take off their airplane seatbelt!

I previously posted asking if airlines are going to throw my family off a flight because my 2 year old daughter won’t keep a mask on her face.

Commenter aaron said it best though, “I have I hard enough time getting my 2 year old to keep his pants on!

Well, now we have the answer to my question.

Southwest kicked a mother and her 2 kids off a flight because her 3 year old son with autism wouldn’t keep his mask on.

They didn’t have issues on their outbound flight from Houston to Midland, but issues came up on the return flight back to Houston.

The plane had already left the gate when a flight attendant asked that she put the child’s mask back on. The 3 year old refused, and the captain announced that they were returning to the gate as “he had a non-compliant passenger that refused to wear a mask and follow the policies.”

Southwest then wrote up the 3 year old for mask noncompliance. Airlines have banned hundreds of passengers from flying due to mask noncompliance and won’t transport them until the mask mandates are lifted.

The mother says that she did have a Doctor’s note confirming the child’s condition, but Southwest didn’t care about it.

She was visiting her husband who was working in Midland, TX on a temporary job. She had to get a family member to drive them 500 miles back home to Houston.

It seems to me that the pendulum has swung too far. Southwest parroted back that the crew was correct in kicking them off the flight. They should be embarrassed that their policies are so heartless for an airline with a ticker symbol of LUV.

On the other hand, Delta’s policy is one written with common sense.

“Customers with unique mask requirements should bring the appropriate face covering that best meets their needs. Customers with underlying conditions that explicitly prevent the wearing of a face covering or mask are strongly encouraged to reconsider travel or should be prepared to complete a ‘Clearance-to-Fly’ process prior to departure at the airport. If you require this exemption, please arrive early to complete the process during check-in and avoid missing your flight – this process can take over one hour. Please arrive early to allow additional time. Mask exemptions only apply for travel on flights operated by Delta Air Lines and Delta Connection and do not exempt customers from any requirements that may be imposed by governments, including local, state or foreign countries, (at the origin or destination) or from requirements on other airlines. 

Any false claims of a disability or health condition to obtain an exemption from wearing a mask or face covering may result in the suspension of travel privileges on any Delta flight for the duration of the mask/face covering requirement.

Children under the age two, young children who cannot maintain a face covering and unaccompanied minors are exempt from the mask requirement and do not require a pre-travel clearance.”

That policy was misreported by the Washington Post, but was corrected after I contacted Delta for clarification.

They ask that passengers 2 or older wear a mask, but Delta told me that passengers under 8 who can’t keep a mask on won’t be required to do so.

Of course the counter point can be made that the other airlines are justified in making no exceptions for toddlers and parents who know that their kids won’t keep their masks on shouldn’t be flying now.

But that assumes that all flying is discretionary. There are also plenty of valid reasons for needing to take a flight now. Is it fair to punish parents in that situation?

What do you think of requiring toddlers and young children to wear a mask on a plane? Does a cutoff of just 24 months old make sense?

Did Southwest Do The Right Thing By Kicking The Family Off Of The Flight?

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115 Comments On "Southwest Kicks Family Off Flight For 3 Year Old With Autism Refusing To Wear A Mask; Has The Pendulum Swung Too Far?"

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Hate democrats

This is the results of liberalism. Nothing to do with commen sense. Dummies.


“Commen sense”?

Those gosh-darn liberals wouldn’t be pushing for things like EDUCATION and SCIENCE so hard on people like you if it wasn’t directly because of gimp-brained people like you.

By the way, I’m an independent. You’re just an idiot and needed to be called out for such.

Mr. (or Ms.) Independent

Hitler didn’t like imperfect people either. I pray you’re one of the perfect ones. For your sake.


Godwin’s law!


You have to wear shoes and a shirt to eat at most restaurants. Is that Nazism too?


But education and science don’t apply by protests, correct?

Grade School Graduate

Hey the minute you can put some data behind that tired lump of an argument, is the minute I listen to it. That’s how science works.


What data do you need. If masks are mandated and social distance is mandated, those are the laws.
Claiming that there might not be a measurable bad outcome proves nothing. There should have been specific testing of demonstrators if you intend to prove a point.
It is not coincidence that many cities had spikes after the demonstrations.




Ha Well said


Jester, try to control yourself. I have a strong health background and would debate anybody. I am upset by some with no background twisting logic but please, is there such a cutoff after 24 months? Is this cutoff in health risk only on one airline?
If the rule would require masks on any person of any age, I might agree.
PS: Since dogs can get Covid 19, they should be banned or masked.

Joe Kay

I just have one question: what is wrong with, of as of this writing, the 7 people who agreed with Southwest?? Seriously a 3 year old?? With autism?? What have we come to?


I hope Southwest ends up paying out millions to the family for this poor decision.




Even if we agree that Southwest’s decision was wrong (I personally think it probably was), I think we should have a lot of empathy for people trying to adjust to dealing with all these new requirements in real time–including the flight attendants and pilot. Southwest, it sounds like, was pushing off from this gate, was dealing with someone who appeared out of compliance with the strict reading of their policy, needed to get the plane going, needed to deal with legitimate health concerns, and they made a decision to address it (albeit, a wrong one, again, IMO). Should they have to pay “millions” for making that mistake, especially when we are all trying to adjust our behavior to deal with this (terrifying) pandemic?


And as of right now its 75!!! What is their justification for siding with Southwest???


Ditto to this question
What is wrong with people out there?!?
Except theres a lot more of those now apparently (seeing the comments & poll). Sad to see what corona is doing to society. The lack of sympathy for this poor mother with an autistic 3yr old is worse than the virus itself imho.


This is beyond sad…science even says that age group are not carriers. Its just more dumb rules with no backing of science. Outside of adding to fear, frustration and emotional scares it does nothing.


Please link in a study from a medical institution that children aren’t Carriers. Thanks


Please link to a study that says masks are effective. Thanks


If in don’t like what you say, I just label you and then I dont need to argue.


Sorry but I read this article, not a single study is sited in it. Just makes an unproven claim that masks prevents spread of virus, without a shred of evidence to back it up. Now call me a deranged trump supporter because I refuse to accept a new religion of mask worshipping without evidence that proves its effectiveness


Yes, Paul, Liberals just want create fear, frustration and emotionally scar people. How’d you figure it out?!


You’re point is correct… the liberals don’t just want to create fear etc….. but that’s only because they are too busy trying to get rid of trump they don’t have a second to think about anything else.
What are they going to do with their sad lives when we have a new president? I guess they can always go back to global warming and paper straws


I am all in favor of wearing masks but it is impossible to get a stubborn two year old to wear a mask! I think four is a reasonable age to require, but under that is impossible. The people who wrote these rules don’t have kids…. or haven’t been around a 2 year old in a while.

I was not a big delta fan before covid but they have by far been the best of all the airlines and will be earning my business in the future!


I mean, I think the alternative point to that is that kids still spread coronavirus, even if they can’t wear a mask. So maybe kids who can’t wear a mask can’t fly right now. That said, it seems like the airlines haven’t made that policy choice– because they allow very young kids to fly without a mask.


Since this mask rule is being enforced to keep fellow passengers flying (the good ROI mentioned…), any other passenger that has a problem with an autistic 3 year old unable to keep his mask on should either request a different seat, or another flight. Makes more sense than kicking the whole family off.
Or maybe this was just to prove their point. So in their view, it’s mission accomplished.
I’ll look for another airline.


“Any other passenger” should be inconvenienced because the kid won’t wear the mask? I understand he’s young and autistic but really? Have the family get off the flight and wait til there’s one with comfortable passengers and flight crew.


You probably don’t have kids yet. Let’s talk after you’ll have a 2 years old toddler.


Because once you have a child the world revolves around you, and everyone must suffer for the poor choices you make?


while I hate to agree with southwest, they do have a rule, which anyone flying knows. I understand that the child is disabled, but then the family shouldn’t have flown. I put the blame on the mother, sadly. Southwest has a responsibility to the other flyers to keep them safe. Even though the “science” says the chances are low for the child to have covid there is still a chance, which means there’s a chance he could pass it on.


You blame the mother? Did she ask God for an autistic child. Her life isn’t hard enough? A little empathy maybe would help. Either you are single, or just selfish, because three year old kids can be hard enough, and throw tantrums. Three year old autistic children can be a nightmare for parents. Should the mother give up her child just because people have poor judgment? Should she put the child in an institution because of people like you. Should she never be able to fly or use Amtrak because people can’t have a little understanding?


um please take a deep breath im blaming the mother for trying to fly when the rules say you must where a mask. I actually have a few kids, and whos saying anything about giving up a child or institutionalizing them?? Im just saying follow the rules. and if you cant then dont fly. my young twins wouldn’t be able to keep their masks on for a flights so im driving for vacation.


Just to clarify, are you saying that all mothers of 3 year olds should be able to break rules or only if their child is on the spectrum?


This comment is totally off point. What are you talking about? Give up a child? Put her child in an institution? Never fly?

I think the commenter was suggesting that she hold off on traveling until there was not a global pandemic, or taking a very long roadtrip instead if the travel was truly necessary.


Instead of “stopping” kids from flying, maybe we should ask all those people who are afraid from a 3 y/o without mask not to fly.


As Dan said so correctly, not all flying is discretionary.
Fact is that while mask-wearing is safe for children over 2, it’s extremely hard to enforce.
And this mother may have tried 10x harder to get her autistic child to wear a mask than you would have to try with your child.
Fact is children are much less likely to pass on the virus, which means that while they still do need to take all reasonable precautions, if it’s not possible you need to weigh the benefits and the risks
Not advocating breaking the rules, neither for typical children nor for autistic children, just advocating being smart about them.


100%. she might have tried and im not saying she didnt. all im saying is that there are rules for safety reason, and no matter what you have to follow them. Im not judging her as a bad person. if you know it might be an issue contact the airline and see if they will make an exception or find another way of going. I feel sorry for the mother. but again you cant weigh the risks to the other passengers no matter how small the risk is. And I am against masks, but I wear one so others feel comfortable.


Very valid points, the rules are there for safety reasons and we need to protect all passengers.

But were the passengers even upset that the child wasn’t wearing a mask? Or did the pilot just decide to make an example out of the child and embarrass his mother only for the sake of the “rules”?

And even if we’re looking at the small risk to passengers, what if it’s risky for the child to wear a mask? I believe that the reason why children under 2 don’t wear masks is that if it interferes with their breathing they may not be able to do anything about it and could suffocate ch”v. An older child who’s uncomfortable with their mask will have no problem letting us know, or will just take it off themselves, as thousands of parents can attest. Wonder if a 3-yr old with autism could be relied on to keep safe in a mask?

Also I’m not sure if it would have been realistic for the mother to decide not to visit her husband who’s away from the family (ie not just a pleasure trip) or to drive 500 miles with her kids.


For the record, the flying in this particular instance WAS discretionary, based on the facts Dan laid out in his post.


Si miler to Brooklyner, but it needs to be said the rules just changed to age 2. She probably bought the tickets and planned when the child would be exempt. I am a health professional and I could tell you that a rule that starts at this age is not based on data.


If you keep quoting your credentials without backing up your stated positions nobody will care about those credentials.

Source that a rule that starts at this age is not based on data?


Change the policy if need be. Don’t blame those that enforce the policy.


Very un-Southwestly. For the very reason they exempt <24 months from mandatory mask wearing, they should have looked the other way and cut this child some slack. Regardless, turning back mid taxiing sounds a bit extreme. I wonder how they would have dealt with it mid-flight.


I think that sw went too far.
I would like to hear the reasoning for those who think that the airline did the right thing. Maybe we can agree to disagree…..


Isn’t this considered discrimination against disable people?
Don’t they have to accommodate disable people?


Yes. And I agree with Dan that we will probably see some attempts at lawsuits. But “Airlines may not refuse transportation to people on the basis of disability. Airlines may exclude anyone from a flight if carrying the person would be inimical to the safety of the flight. If a carrier excludes a person with a disability on safety grounds, the carrier must provide a written explanation of the decision.” (


Yes, it is interesting, when someone is flying with a “support” animal and you complain that you are allergic to the animal they make you, the allergic passenger, is forced off the plane


It’s easy to blame Southwest. I agree that it’s very hard to get a young child to wear a mask, even without autism. Unfortunately though, that child is no less likely to be a carrier of the virus than anyone else flying. The other passengers were assured that all would wear masks, and they all feel safer because of it. I feel that if your child is not able to keep their mask on, you should not bring them on a plane.


Exactly this.

If you can’t follow one airline’s rules, fly a different airline or stay home. Everybody else on the flight has the right to expect all passengers age 2+ to wear a mask. Southwest doesn’t keep its rules a secret.


Other passengers were assured that everyone is wearing masks…..besides for when eating!!! So everyone can remove their masks to eat and you feel safe but a. 3 year old in his seat makes you feel unsafe? This is almost as bad as saying “protests don’t spread anything…” while banning everything else…


You keep on questioning the wisdom of the rules, and perhaps the questions are valid, but it’s NOT valid to complain that one isn’t allowed to break the stated rules that all participants VOLUNTARILY agreed to upon entering their contracts.


I feel badly that they were thrown off. On the other hand she knew what the rules were. She should have taken that into consideration when booking flights.

Maybe not

I think they should have just thrown the child off, not the other family members!

Giving in to the mob

Go woke or go broke


Honestly messed up(I would have preferred to use more colorful language here). If airlines do this you can’t travel with kids under 5 or 6. Just flew with my 3 year old and we tried everything and managed to get him to wear it for like 5 minutes.


Then fly an airline that doesn’t require your son to wear a mask, or stay home.

Perhaps your son was an asymptomatic COVID carrier. If he spread the disease to other on your flight, are you prepared to cover their medical expenses, their lost wages, perhaps even their funeral expenses? What about the family members and co-workers who they may have spread it to?

Airlines publicize their policies for a reason.


After getting administrative experience, I get it. You make a rule, for a reason, it needs to be followed. They stated their policy clearly. If you think you’re special, get an official statement from SW , otherwise ymmv. Otherwise, don’t fly.


if anyone has issues with the requirements set, perhaps air travel is not for them at this moment in time.


This is just one of the crazy things big corporations are doing just to “look good” and be politically correct but in reality is a psychotic and disgusting thing to do. 2 yrs old???? who makes up the rules??


i speak as a person with fear of getting Covid19.
I also speak after 26 years of raising my autistic son, 24 since he became autistic.
Travel is very stressful when travelling with an autistic child. I drove NYC-Miami twice to avoid travel on a jet. I later flew with him and it really wasn’t an issue.
Considering the fact that the rules did not require masks for two year old Kids and originally the rules did allow 3 year olds to skip the mask, give the mom a break. Saying that since the rules changes she should have not boarded and been stranded, REMEMBER, parents do not ask for autistic kids, it happens and might happen to your family.


For all you naysayers telling this mom to just stay home or that a rule is a rule. What would you do in these similar situations that I know of first hand: A man going for cancer treatment and noone allowed in the hospital with him. A lady going through a tramatic miss and noone allowed to accompany her to the OB. Both situations the offices cite covid concerns. They refuse to allow to bend the rules. Is that fair to the patient? Is that healthy for them? There is already enough precautions in place (temp screening , masks, sd) that it’s safe to allow someone else in – and for sure in places that are not hot zones. They are not using common sense! Would you tell the patients if you don’t like it just stay home???
Yes this has gone wayyyy to far!
Wake up America!!!


For crying out loud at people who are blaming the mother saying “if you can’t handle the rules, don’t book a ticket”

What they’re effectively saying is that kids shouldn’t be allowed to fly, because 99% of toddlers either won’t keep their masks on for a 2 hour flight, or you won’t know whether they can keep it on until you see it play out. There is no way for me to know at the time of booking if my toddler can keep his mask on in a cooped up airplane.

And if we’re effectively saying toddlers can’t fly, then Southwest shouldn’t be selling tickets to toddlers on their website.

If you’re going to sell a plan ticket to a 3 year old, or someone with special needs, you need to have some wiggle room (aka common sense) when they act like a 3 year old or someone with special needs


That’s horrible how they would treat a special needs child. This should be an easy disability lawsuit for the family to win.

I have to correct you regarding your statement on masks preventing virus infection. Masks only slow the transmission. They do not prevent infection as you state. Even with everyone wearing a mask on an airplane you are still at risk of contracting the disease if an infected person is present. Even N95 masks only filter 95% of small particles.


Thank you. That’s the way I understood it. The law follows the ADA and prohibits discrimination based on a disability. If they want to claim the child is a safety risk then the airline needs to present evidence that the child is a risk. It can’t be something that’s theoretical.


I flew southwest today and last week with 2 toddlers and had zero issues. They didn’t enforce the kids to keep their mask on the entire flight. We were respectful of the rule and tried our best. No one at any point made any comments about the mask being off.


Glad to hear that. But of course, you shouldn’t have flown! At least in the opinion of some commenters here

Raising a special needs child

It is only common sense not make a big Deal so I’m not surprised they did not enforce it in you .
Raising a child Under the spectrum for 18 years now I know that people Are very uncomfortable to be seated next to these children, anyone Traveled with their autistic children on public transportation know what I mean, yes- sometimes these children act up a little…
I have A Gut feeling that this wasn’t about the mask at All, they were afraid of this child for some reason….. the mask excuse is just MASKED.


I flew southwest with my 2 almost 3 year old this week. Noone could care less that she wasn’t wearing a mask. We didnt even pretend to have one for her.


Although, I wish I had the opportunity to sue them over this. Not wise to go against ADA


The ADA doesn’t apply to airlines. The ACA does. And it does not require airlines to accommodate a disability that poses a health risk to others.


you probably didnt have a karen on your flight


People cared, just too polite to say so.


That’s their policy then don’t blame the flight attendants. However, the policy should read like delta. It should be six and over.

Fear spreads more easily than a virus

People are gripped by fear. It’s so pathetic to see what’s happening to our country. What happened to America?

mountain man

I feel like this was more of a flight attendant being a Karen then anything else. Southwest didn’t say boo about my 2.5 yr old not wearing a mask. The point of masks was to limit social interaction so we’d be lower for longer. Like vaccines it was originally pretty clear that there’d be a a small percentage who could not or would not wear masks. But everyone seems to have forgotten that. In general this virus has become yet another excuse for many people to lose common human decency.


This inconsistent and haphazard craziness swung too far a long time ago.


Airplanes have never been responsible for any major virus spreading, so this whole mask on planes thing is safety theater. I have a 3 year old who BH isn’t autistic, and it would literally be impossible to get him to keep a mask on for an entire flight even if he’s in the best of moods. Thankfully AA didnt force him to wear a mask.

To all those saying anyone with little kids shouldn’t fly, how long do you think is reasonable to tell people not to fly? We’re already 5 months into this, a vaccine being mass distributed is still close to a year away if everything goes as planned, and as expected Dr Fauci is already casting doubt on the vaccine being effective enough.


I feel bad for that family, and at first glance the way Southwest handled that seems overly harsh and heavy-handed. But airlines want to quell public fear of air travel right now and to that end, this seems like a step in the right direction. If I need to travel during the pandemic I am now more likely to fly Southwest after having heard this story. Great to see Southwest enforcing their rules.

Plain and simple

You’re an idiot.

Sarcasm intended

You are kind


This is free positive press for Southwest. Of course they did what was right for them.


An idea I have to get around the rule: you can take the mask off for eating. Get a bag of rice crispies and eat the bag slowly at a rate of 1 or 2 per minute…

Renee Chaim-Alfassy

If an individual who is required to wear a mask during a flight cannot or will not do so, then they should not fly. Driving was an option for the women and her children. If she knows her child may not be able to comply with airline regulations, then don’t fly. Let’s remember, that flying during the pandemic for pleasure is not essential. Sounds harsh but isn’t it time we all just do what we need to do and stop arguing about “the rules”?


We have gone mask-crazy. Understanding the disease and its spread has become irrelevant. Mom should sue under the american with disabilities act.


They do have 20 minute Covid tests that (as we learned this weekend) are required for people who see the President. Situations like this, would make great use of them. If a child or someone with other disabilities cannot wear a mask, let them arrive early, get tested at the airport shortly before departure (at their expense if necessary), if they are negative – give them a special id/boarding pass with a picture and let them on.


I flew yesterday jet blue JFK to LAX 4 kids ages 5 and under. Kids didnt wear a mask at all. Nobody said anything.


As a mother of five, I do think it’s ridiculous to ask very young children to wear a mask. However, I’m wondering why so many people, including families, are traveling right now? I thought everyone was supposed to be avoiding non-essential travel. Did I miss something?


I disagree about it being ridiculous to ask that toddlers wear a mask, but this is definitely going too far! Many children won’t fully comply with mask rules, but the airline has every right to require the parents to make a REASONABLE effort to get their kids to wear a mask – just like we must make sure that our kids are buckled in properly whenever seatbelts are required. I very highly doubt that anyone has EVER been thrown off a plane for their child opening their seatbelt – even though that is a clear danger! This mask requirement should be trated accordingly – require parents to TRY to get their kids to wear a mask, and maybe have the flight crew offer various prizes for compliance.


I have read all the comments. I speak as a health professional, as a person of age which adds risks and after decades of raising my autistic son. I have met all kinds of people through the years.
In my opinion and after reading the posts, Many of the posters are Idiots. I do not ignore the risks but the smug attitude of some posters is like tempting G-d to send them a challenge.


Because you speak as a health professional your totally unsubstantiated blanket labeling of anyone who disagrees with you an Idiot shows a deep wisdom acquired with experience.


You or anybody else who takes a two year old on a flight in this day and age should have child protective services take your children from you and you should be charged with child neglect. How stupid can people be?