Cody and Paige Petek claim Southwest Airlines refused them entry onto a flight in Missouri, on Sunday (Picture: KCCI)
A family has said they were refused entry onto a flight because their five-year-old autistic son wouldn’t wear a mask.
Parents Cody and Paige Petek claim Southwest Airlines told them they couldn’t board a plane unless their son, who is non-verbal, has autism and a sensory processing disorder, wears a mask for the duration of the flight.
The Peteks say they tried to get their son to wear a mask but he was having issues with it due to his disability. The family tried to explain the situation to staff at the St Louis airport in Missouri, but say they were forced to miss their flight home after staff refused to budge on their strict mask mandate, reports KCCI.
Southwest Airlines, in a statement, said federal law requires passengers aged above two-years-old to wear a mask while traveling and explained that the family had not sought an exemption to the rule before travel.
The family has been on vacation in Florida and on the way home to Des Moines, Iowa, stopped over in Missouri for a connecting flight.
Before boarding the plane, on Sunday, the family’s said they tried to get their son to wear a mask but he was struggling to wear it due to his sensory processing disorder.
Another traveler boarding the same flight who witnessed the ordeal said other passengers were encouraging the flight crew to let the boy board, but said the staff still refused.
‘He just wasn’t having it and throwing a fit’, said Dr Vince Hassel, speaking to the news outlet.
He added: ‘Just to watch this play out was absolutely horrible.’
Under the Transportation Security Administration policy, travelers with disabilities who cannot wear a mask due to their condition are not required to, KCCI reported.
But the airline said the child did not have a face mask exemption to bypass their own policy on face coverings.
The five-year-old was struggling to wear a mask due to his disability (Picture: KCCI)
The airline said the family did not have an exemption for the boy (Picture: KCCI)
The company said: ‘Southwest Airlines considers applications for exemptions from this mask requirement from passengers with a disability who cannot wear a mask, or who cannot safely wear a mask because of the disability.
‘In this case, a traveler was not wearing a face covering prior to boarding and did not have an exemption to the federal mask mandate.’
The airline said they offered to put the up family in a hotel with a new flight on Monday ‘to allow them additional time to comply’.
But the family accepted a refund and opted to drive home instead.
The family’s lawyer, Anthony Marchetti, said the airline may have violated the the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Marchetti said: ‘There’s clear guidance from the department of transportation about what the airline should do.
‘None of that happened here.’
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