Family kicked off Southwest flight because 3-year-old boy with autism would not wear face mask

HOUSTON – A Houston area mother said her family was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight on Monday morning because her 3-year-old son with autism would not wear a face mask.

“It was just not a good morning,” said Alyssa Sadler, of Deer Park.

Sadler said she was trying to get back home from Midland, Texas, with her son and 1-year-old daughter. The flight initially left the gate but a crewmember said the plane would have to return when the boy wouldn’t keep the mask on, Alyssa said.

“He was screaming. He was throwing a fit. He was screaming no, no, no,” Alyssa said.

She said her son has a sensory processing disorder and doesn’t like his face touched. Alyssa also had a note from the boy’s doctor about his condition but she said that didn’t make a difference.

“The mask is not going to work,” Alyssa said. “He’s not going to wear the mask.”

Southwest Airlines said all customers over age two have to cover their faces while traveling to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, something that’s pointed out during the online booking and check-in process.

“If a customer is unable to wear a face covering for any reason, Southwest regrets that we are unable to transport the individual,” the airline said in an email.

Alyssa said she had no problem wearing a mask on board but believes there should be an exception in certain situations.

“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,” she said.

She said her son did not wear a mask while boarding, or on the flight to Midland. The family was visiting her husband, who’s in Midland working on a temporary job.

Alyssa said a family member will drive her family home from Midland on Thursday.