Southwest has been vigilant with its mask policy, removing a young child from a plane for not wearing a mask. The child was eating gummy bears as the plane pushed back from the gate and did not wear a mask. The airline then removed the mother and son from the plane.
A small boy, only two years and one-month-old, was eating gummy bears at lunchtime as the plane prepared to taxi and depart. The flight attendants asked the passenger’s mother to ensure that the mask was on, but she claimed that the child was eating and, therefore, exempt from the rules.
“We do acknowledge there may be times when a customer needs to briefly remove their face covering, for instance, to eat, drink, or take medicine, However, we expect these instances to be very brief, and customers should put their face covering back on as soon as possible.” Southwest’s mask policy on its website.
However, according to another source, the flight attendants pleaded with the mother and caught the child multiple times, not wearing the mask. They went as far as to suggest that the child was purposely eating as slow as possible so as not to have to wear a mask. The flight attendants gave an example of how other families had avoided using masks for an entire flight by ‘pretending’ or ‘stalling’ their eating.
The plane returned to the gate, and the family left the plane. Southwest offered to rebook them on a later flight. However, it would require multiple connections and was not a direct link to Chicago. The family opted to fly direct with American Airlines for $600.
The airline released this statement regarding the event:
“If a Customer is unable to wear a face-covering for any reason, Southwest regrets that we are unable to transport the individual. In those cases, we will issue a full refund and hope to welcome the Customer onboard in the future, if public health guidance regarding face coverings changes. Caring for others with our Southwest Hearts is at the center of everything we do, which is especially important during this pandemic. We appreciate the ongoing support and spirit of cooperation among our Customers and Employees as we collectively take care of each other while striving to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Was it the right move?
Battling the current crisis with masks is very important, and this author is full of praise for news of airlines removing passengers for not wearing a mask.
However, this event is slightly different.
The passenger in question was only two years old, one month older than the minimum requirement for Southwest. Can children as young as two even comprehend a global pandemic and understand a mask, let alone count their fingers? Yes, the error should fall on the mother for not ensuring the child is wearing a mask, but perhaps the age limit for the rule is too young.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.