Houston resident Alyssa Sadler says that her Southwest flight from Midland, Texas, to Houston returned to the gate when her son refused to wear the protective mask. Her family, including her 1-year-old daughter, was asked to exit the plane.
"When you get kicked off your flight because your 3 year old autistic child won’t wear a mask," Sadler wrote on Facebook. "Looks like I’m stuck here in midland."
Sadler told local TV station KPRC that her son has a sensory processing disorder and does not like to have his face touched. She said she had a note from the boy’s doctor about his condition.
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"He was throwing a fit. He was screaming 'No, no, no,' " Sadler said. "It was like, the mask is not going to work, he's not going to wear a mask."
Southwest Airlines' COVID-19 tightened mask policy, enacted July 27, states that all passengers over age 2 must have proper face coverings while traveling. The rule is pointed out during the online booking, in a pre-trip email and during the check-in process.
"We communicate this policy to all customers at multiple touchpoints throughout the travel journey, so we regret any inconvenience this family experienced," Southwest spokesperson Dan Landson said by email to USA TODAY. "If a customer is unable to wear a face covering for any reason, Southwest regrets that we are unable to transport the individual."
The family will receive a full refund for the flight. All U.S. airlines have a similar mandatory face mask policy. Southwest does not allow for medical exemptions to its rule. Other major U.S. airlines, including American and United, have also eliminated medical exemptions, and most also have rules about what constitutes an approved face mask.
Southwest does not allow face coverings with holes, including exhaust valves; face coverings made solely of mesh or lace; bandannas and other face coverings that cannot be secured under the chin; or face shields without a face covering underneath. Neck gaiters are allowed if they cover the nose and mouth and are secured under the chin.
Sadler said she had no problem wearing a mask on board but believes there should be exceptions "in place for children or even adults with disabilities who can’t wear a mask."
Sadler said her son did not wear a mask when the family flew to visit her husband, who is working a temporary job in Midland. A family member will pick up the family and drive them back to Houston on Thursday, she told KPRC.
Contributing: Dawn Gilbertson
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Southwest flight removes family: Son, 3, with autism won't wear mask