According to Southwest Airlines traveler Jodi Degyansky, 34, the Saturday removal unfolded after her son Hayes Jarboe took off his mask so he could eat some of the snacks that were served by flight staff.
As a result, flight attendants insisted on escorting her and her son off the plane, even though it had already left the gate. Even when Degyansky’s son placed his mask back on, the flight attendants still insisted that they deplane.
Official guidelines by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that children aged 2 years and older should wear a mask over their nose and mouth if social distancing is not feasible.
"My toddler who literally turned 2 two weeks ago … I know you have to draw the line, but let's be a little compassionate with everyone's individual circumstances," Degyansky recently told the Fort Myers News-Press, also noting that she supports the wearing of masks but that she expected the airline to be more lenient.
"I'm sure other parents are going through this," Degyansky said. "I want people to either do their homework before they choose to fly or find an airline that has more leniency."
Degyansky also told the outlet that it was humiliating to be escorted off the plane.
Although airline staff did offer to find the mother another flight later in the day, none of the options were direct flights to Chicago, and the next such trip was scheduled for Monday. As a result, Degyansky had to book a $600 flight on American Airlines.
"I just felt like I can't believe it happened," Degyansky said. "I was left scrambling - how the hell am I going to get home? What if I didn’t have the resources to buy a $600 ticket?"
Degyansky also said Southwest Airlines indicated it would refund her money for the ticket. As of Sunday, however, she had not been reimbursed.
In a statement to the News-Press, Southwest Airlines said it is investigating the situation to learn more about what transpired. The airline also said it is planning to reach out to Degyansky.
"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," Ro Hawthorne, a spokesperson for the airline, told the outlet.
"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,” Hawthorne added.