A Long Beach, California family with a teenager with autism tried to board a Southwest Airlines flight from St. Louis. However, a flight attendant of Southwest prevented the family from boarding.
LaShaunda Jethro, mother of a 17-year-old son with autism said that it’s challenging to make her son wear a mask. She said that “He will not keep a mask on his face. We have tried and tried. He just won’t do it”. She added that a flight attendant prevented them from boarding insisting that her son needs to wear a mask.
LaShaunda claims that she pulled out the doctor’s letter from her phone but was still denied to board. She and her family were allowed to board when she called a St. Louis TV station. However, it wasn’t the end of it. They were then asked to get off the plane.
According to Southwest, Jethro was asked to deplane since she wasn’t wearing her mask at one point when talking to the flight attendants. Jethro denies that such an incident happened.
The family decided to get off the plane together with the teen suffering from autism. Their luggage remained checked on the flight, and they had to rebook a flight.
Federal Mask Mandate and Exemptions for Passengers with Disabilities
With the number of unruly passengers, there is now a federal mask mandate on public transportation including airports and planes. Refusal to wear a mask is the main reason why the FAA recorded thousands of unruly passengers. However, there are exemptions.
According to the CDC, there is an exemption on individuals with disabilities. This includes “A person with a severe sensory disability or a severe mental health disability who would pose an imminent threat of harm to themselves or others if required to wear a mask.”
It is also suggested by the CDC that they are provided with a “Seat or otherwise situate the person in a less crowded section of the conveyance or transportation hub”.