United started it.
Until that point all airlines had a common sense policy to exempt young children who couldn’t wear a mask on a flight.
Airlines love copying each other and soon enough every major US airline besides Delta would require masks for everyone 2 and older without exceptions.
Here’s the Venn diagram on which airlines require 2 year olds to wear masks and which airlines promise empty middle seats, which shows which airlines at least put their money where their mouth is:
In my opinion, the rule is absurd. If we’re looking to stop the spread of COVID-19, then a 12 month old or a 23 month old for that matter is just as problematic as a 24 month old.
Presumably, the policy is based on the CDC saying that “Masks should NOT be worn by children under age 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.”
That doesn’t mean a child magically becomes contagious at 24 months. It also doesn’t mean that the CDC is saying that a 2 year old should be required to wear a mask for the duration of a flight. I’d also argue that many 2 and 3 year olds also fall under CDC’s category of being unable to remove the mask without assistance, and should therefore be exempt.
If we’re looking for the age at which a child can be reasoned with to wear a mask, it’s certainly older than 2. I’d guess that it’s probably around 5. So what exactly is the point of a rule arbitrarily requiring 2 year olds to wear a mask? Why exactly is that the cut-off point?
One argument is that a 2 year old needs to wear a mask just like that need to wear a seatbelt on a plane. Fair enough, but 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, so a carseat ensures they won’t be able to unbuckle themselves! However there’s no way to get a toddler to keep a mask on and 2 year olds are completely unpredictable. There’s just no way to know if your 2 year old will keep a mask on for the duration of a flight.
Commenter aaron said it best, “I have a hard enough time getting my 2 year old to keep his pants on!“
Last week, Southwest kicked a family off of a return flight home to Houston because their 3 year old son with autism wouldn’t keep his mask on. Sure, they were following the rules, but that just shows how ridiculous the rules are. Airlines may as well ban all travel with young children if they’re going to enforce rules like that. I’m not a fan of that, but it would save them from ridiculous situations where they have to kick families off a flight because a 2 year old can’t be reasoned with.
Yesterday I wrote about how JetBlue egregiously kicked a mother flying with her 6 kids off a plane because her 2 year old couldn’t keep her mask on, despite JetBlue’s site saying that the rule didn’t apply to young children and their press release saying that the rule didn’t apply to those 2 and under.
A DansDeals commenter says that he had to sit with his toddler on his lap for the duration of a Southwest flight after he was threatened by a flight attendant when his 2 year old removed his mask during a flight.
Delta has been an industry leader throughout this pandemic and deserves praise. They never tried to play games with refunds like JetBlue and United did before the DOT told them to stop their deceptive and unfair practices. They have promised and delivered on empty middle seats on all flights. And they have the most logical mask policy,
“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.
We have a 2 year old and while I’d like to think she would wear a mask, there’s really no way to know.
I haven’t flown anywhere with my family since January and don’t have any plans to, but sometimes you just need to take a flight. It seems like that will be extremely difficult for families with young children to do for as long as the mask requirement stays in place.
Sure, we could just fly Delta, though their service from Cleveland is quite limited. Plus I have elite status on American, JetBlue, and United, which make it beneficial to stick with those airlines when possible.
The toddler mask rule is going to keep creating situations like the recent ones on Southwest and JetBlue. Airlines need to come up with a more reasonable rule than one that requires the compliance of a 2 year old or a kid with autism.
Previous polls on this site show that 86% of respondents believe that young children should be exempt from masks on a plane and 88% of respondents believe that Southwest was in the wrong for kicking off the family with a 3 year old child with autism for not wearing a mask.
Are any US airlines besides Delta actually listening? It’s time to #RaiseTheMinimumAge