Southwest Airways Grounds Household Of Boy With Disabilities Over Masks Resistance

DENVER – A family in Colorado with a child with disabilities was banned from Southwest Airlines’ return flights to Denver due to a company policy after a flight attendant feared the boy would not be wearing a mask, the family said.

30-year-old Trent Smitley, his 27-year-old wife Andi, and their 7-year-old son Kingston, who has the mental capacity of a 1-year-old, returned to Denver International Airport on May 9th after flying to Salt Lake City in the southwest a few days earlier when they weren’t allowed to get on the plane, Trent Smitley said.

Kingston, who suffers from epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and brain malformations, has trouble wearing a mask.

Advertisement – Read below

“He won’t be wearing a mask because of his disability,” said Smitley.

The parents told Southwest officials that they would make constant efforts to keep the mask on for the roughly 90-minute flight to Kingston, but the airline was firm.

After flying to Salt Lake City on May 7 to celebrate a cousin’s wedding and to visit Kingston with extended family members, the little family was tired from whirlwind weekend and was desperate to get on the jet. Kingston was officially adopted by the couple on May 6th. He has been with the foster family for about 15 months.

“We didn’t think anything of it,” said Smitley of the return flight.

“It should have been the same when I got back. We will inform someone of Kingston upon check-in. “Just tell the gate agent everything will be fine,” Smitley recalled.

However, the gate agent informed the family that a flight attendant had a problem flying Kingston without a mask and the crew checked with the company. They were soon told not to go on board.

“They took us out of sight of everyone in the boarding area to tell us,” recalled Smitley.

Southwest reimbursed the cost of the tickets at the gate. The couple who had to be back in Colorado for work and school are certified nurses. They rented a vehicle at the Salt Lake City airport and started driving.

“I drove until 1am and we stopped at a hotel in Grand Junction,” said Smitely. “We drove the rest of the way and drove against snowstorms that popped up in this area on Monday afternoon.”

Between the car rental, the hotel room, and the gas, the drive home was about $ 1,000.

Southwest Airlines released a statement Wednesday that the Smitely family has been banned from their flight.

“The federal law stipulates that every person aged 2 and over must wear a mask during the entire trip. To assist travelers with disabilities, there is a narrow exception to the mask mandate for certain types of disabilities that prevent a person from wearing a mask. This exception procedure is described on our website under “Mask exceptions” and requires that an application and documentation be submitted for review and approval prior to departure, ”the statement said. “In this case, the traveling family has had no exception to the federal mask mandate and we regret the inconvenience they experienced during their trip. As always, we encourage travelers to follow the mandatory guidelines and tools for assistance, such as: B. The mask release option to review prior to travel to promote a predictable travel experience. “

On April 30, a Northglenn family was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight from Denver International Airport to Florida after it was revealed that their 3-year-old son had a sensory disability, according to the boy’s mother, Caroline Scott. The captain of that flight ordered the family to get off the plane even though the boy was buckled up and wearing a mask, Scott said.

In the case of the Scott family, the airlines issued a statement that read in part: “Southwest employees work every day to be sensitive to the requirements of the federal mask mandate during these challenging times. We value the continued understanding and collaboration between our customers and employees as we work together to promote the comfort and well-being of everyone traveling with us during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “

At home in Castle Rock, Smitley called Southwest on May 12 to file a complaint, but he was on hold for 90 minutes. He hung up and filed a complaint online. It could take up to 30 days for Southwest to respond, he said.

“The anger kind of subsided,” said Smitley. “We are now trying to prevent this from happening to others. The Southwest needs to rethink its policies. It is difficult enough to raise and care for children with special needs. Making flying more difficult is of no use to anyone. “

© 2021 The Denver Post
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Comments are closed.