3-year-old Removed From Southwest Flight for Struggling to Wear Face Mask

passengers waiting inside the airport have a view of a Southwest Airlines plane

A three-year-old boy and his family were removed from a Southwest Airlines flight when he refused to wear a face mask during the flight.

Mom Alyssa Sadler was traveling with her three-year-old son and one-year-old daughter on a Southwest flight from Midland, Texas to Houston on Monday morning when their plane returned to the airport because the three-year-old did not put on his mask.

Sadler's son, who is autistic, has a sensory processing disorder and does not when his face touched, Sadler told Houston's KPRC News. She was carrying a doctor’s note about the condition, but Southwest determined that the flight had to be turned around.

“I think there needs to be something in place for children or even adults with disabilities who can’t wear a mask. They should have some kind of exemption,” Sadler told the local news channel.

Sadler said the family had been able to fly from Houston to Midland without her son wearing a mask.

Southwest's policy requires anyone older than two years to wear a face mask when onboard, except for when eating or drinking.

“If a Customer is unable to wear a face covering for any reason (even a verifiable medical condition), we regret that we are unable to transport the Customer at this time, due to safety risk of asymptomatic COVID-19 transmission by Customers without face coverings,” the airline’s policy reads on its website.

Southwest did not immediately respond to Travel + Leisure’s request for comment but told KPRC in an email that, “If a customer is unable to wear a face covering for any reason, Southwest regrets that we are unable to transport the individual.”

In instances where a passenger is removed from their flight over face mask concerns, they can receive a full refund and the airline will “welcome the customer onboard in the future, if public health guidance regarding face coverings changes," their policy read.

Last month, Delta Air Lines updated its face mask policy, requiring passengers seeking exemptions for a medical condition to undergo a rigorous pre-boarding process to earn clearance. Their virtual “Clearance-To-Fly” process happens between the passenger, a Delta agent, and a third-party medical professional and can take up to an hour to complete.

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