Family Reports Their Two Year Old Has Been Banned From United Airlines After Refusing To Keep Mask On

A husband and wife who say they are Silver elite members of United’s MileagePlus program report their family has been banned from United Airlines “forever” because their two year old was unwilling to keep a mask on. The child’s mother, a trainer and health coach, shares on Instagram that they ‘always fly United’ and have flown with their child four times during the pandemic without issue. So why now?

Of course if the child was unwilling to wear a mask when it was required and United’s rules weren’t enforced earlier, that’s on the airline.

The family was flying Denver to Newark on Friday after making the two and a half hour drive from their home in Breckenridge, Colorado. They didn’t get to take their flight, and didn’t get their luggage back right away either. United wasn’t going to delay the flight longer than it took to remove the family’s car seat so they could drive home.

The family’s video has been viewed 2.3 million times in less than a day.

American Airlines by the way is thrilled that this time it’s not them.

When the family got off the flight, the father asked that they be re-accommodated on another flight in first class. This was refused. He argued that the airline’s policy is ridiculous, since “the virus has a 99% survival rate.”

However United is very clear about their mask rules. The family should have flown Delta, which allows young children unable to wear masks not to do so. Delta flies Denver – New York JFK non-stop.

I’m in favor of mask-wearing, though most of the masks people wear aren’t very good. They may offer limited source protection. Travelers should make an effort to wear better masks. I’m not in favor of kicking off families whose two year olds can’t wear masks. The preponderance of evidence highly suggests that the risk of spread from a two year old is very low.

More problematic is that the family planned to violate New York’s coronavirus restrictions and not quarantine on arrival. The family was flying to New York for the weekend (so not long enough to be released from quarantine requirements) to go see the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center and visit with friends who were coming into the city from Cleveland. Perhaps it’s better they turned around.

I suspect that the family was refused transportation on Friday but not yet added to the list of passengers to deny future travel to, and that if they are indeed banned as they report that this will not be ‘forever’ as they believe but until the mask requirement is lifted.

Update: As I expected, despite being told by a United agent that they aren’t welcome to fly the airline, they are not actually banned. That’s not a decision made on the spot at the airport. United offers,

The health and safety of our employees and customers is our highest priority, which is why we have a multi-layered set of policies, including mandating that everyone onboard two and older wears a mask. These procedures are not only backed by guidance from the CDC and our partners at the Cleveland Clinic, but they’re also consistent across every major airline.

We are investigating this specific incident and have made contact with the family. We also refunded their tickets and returned their car seat and bags.

United’s claim, however, that their policy on two year old mask wearing is “consistent across every major airline” is not accurate. It’s similar to American’s policy and Southwest’s. However Delta’s policy says “young children who cannot maintain a face covering are exempt from the mask requirement.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Anytime screaming crotch-droppings are kicked off planes is fine by me. But still…. shove your useless masks up your collective ass.

  2. First of all i would like to say this child is 2 years old not 12 so yes it would be impossible to keep a child masked if any of you clowns have kids you should know this. So lets not come down so hard on these parents because these arent God fearing people but covid 19 fearing people. This is ridiculous and their policy should be like other airlines when it comes to small children. Delta airlines policy stated that young children who cannot maintain face coverings should be exempt.

  3. You give way to much leeway to the airline. That was disgusting. Their policy is not in line with real science.

  4. I’m not driving or flying from MA to VA to see my end-of-life grandparent one last time because I don’t want to accidentally expose the rest of my family or otherwise contribute to spread.

    I understand that my family’s calculus is a bit more conservative than others and it’s always interesting to see new stories explaining why other families are choosing to fly this year. Thanks for the interesting perspective on these people’s choices.

  5. I am very sympathetic to the child being unable to comply. On the other hand, the father was not wearing his mask properly. And traveling during a pandemic mainly to see a Christmas tree with a 2 year old who won’t remember it seems a little irresponsible to me as well.

  6. While I have empathy for the families situation, this could have been one of the first times the parents asked their child to wear a mask.
    Knowing the policy, parents should work with their children before the flight to get the accustomed to wearing a mask. If they are accustomed to wearing one it is much less likely for them to refuse when they are on the plane.

  7. Thank you United Airlines for enforcing the mask policy for the greater good. This family’s feeble attempt to garner sympathy is truly a tone deaf, pathetic, selfish stunt. On a side note, I was disappointed to see gaiters worn and the display of noses by the father and UA representative. Half-a@@ mask coverage is theater at best.

  8. I totally agree with the airline.
    These parents are now looking for media attention and trying to crucify the airline. Stay home…or drive your 2 year old to see the Chrstmas tree. Parents like this give parents a bad name.

  9. Neanderthal body-builder mom along with a dad who can’t figure out how to wear a mask? Fly to NYC for the weekend? What else could anyone possibly expect from such selfish jerks? (other than the big top drama performance they gave?) Good riddance.

  10. This so bad that United added a discretionary rule after boarding started. How do you get a 2 year old to understand and wear a mask when it is not used to it? Oh wait, this rule has been there for a while, if you are not training your kid to wear a mask they are not ready to fly. I’m not saying it is easy to train kids. It takes time, effort and patience (a lot of it). After all of this, the kids might still get fussy for various reasons and don’t know how to express it so instead go in tangents. It is our responsibility as parents to figure out what a kid needs and how to make them understand.

    My school district says if kids are not potty trained they can’t be admitted to the school. Same thing goes here. No mask, no boarding. The same social media police would come down heavily if there was a immuno-compromised person sitting in the seat in front of them and the mask policy was not enforced. You knew the policy on the private property and failed to comply. I feel bad for the family but it was their own making. So, please take responsibility and no dramas.

    You are 100% right Gary. United’s rules were clear and they should also evenly enforce it.

  11. @Gary: This isn’t a child who CANNOT wear a mask. This is two parents who think they are exempt from rules that apply to everyone on United.

    It’s a fat head problem — and that is not a virus.

  12. I was on this flight…the kid screamed bloody murder for 15 minutes. They calmed her down, we pulled off the gate and then the kid became inconsolable. They reattached the jet bridge and the family de-planed. We ended up arriving in Newark 90 minutes late. I am NOT in favor of masks, but United is extremely clear when you book, before you board and once you’re on the plane. I wear the mask because I have to fly and I know United’s rules/policies.

    BTW, I fly every week and am 1K with United, so I have seen it all in the last 10 years. United personnel were patient with this family, but there comes a point where they have to draw the line.

  13. Crazy world we are living in! There is a lack of common sense and empathy. Lack of flexibility and understanding! Come on man! a two year old… hello! world of incredible inflexibility of the situation we are living in. Incredible story!

  14. The reason why they want to fly it’s they problem ,trying to force a two year’s old to wear a mask, that’s insane when kids refuse, it’s hard to force them. I don’t think any airline should force a 5 years old or younger kids to wear a face mask, they could sugges it. If the airlines worry so much because of the virus they should have more space between each passenger less people in the airplane

  15. Amazing Larry: Please proceed to the nearest mirror, stand there, look into it, and say: “I am the reason–I share personal responsibility for hospitals running out of ICU beds this week with all the other people who hold my idiotic viewpoint. I am helping us become a country of abject morons.
    I am amazing. I am proud of myself.”

  16. We need to get rid of masks all together. They offer a false sense of security anyways. Live life like a normal person. I will be damned if I let mask wearing become the new normal.

  17. Drama queen mom is too busy filming to deal with her child. Shame on her privileged self thinking she deserves sympathy trying to fly to NYC for a non-essential recreational weekend.

  18. The bigger question going to NYC for weekend and not quarantining like they are supposed to… Their child did not want to wear a mask? Rules are for other people!

  19. Well said laffinatlarry! And here’s a suggestion for you Amazing (ly stupid) Larry, the next time you have to have any kind of surgical procedure done to you (God forbid) make sure you insist that the surgeon and all of his or her surgical staff take their mask off and stick it up their collective ass’es. And do let us all know how that turned out, if you’re still around that is!

  20. This being United, they would have flown into Newark which is New Jersey, which doesn’t enforce signing quarantine declaration before departing airport. From there they could have entered Manhattan and never be screened entering NYS.
    But since today Cuomo has been declared a sexual harasser, it no longer matters what Cuomo dictates.

  21. Wait until this child is 12, and finds this archived video of her when she was two. Massive embarrassment.

  22. I disagree with much of your personal opinions in this “article”. Mostly, I think United is on the wrong side of this. Anyone who has ever been a parent orf a 2 year old knows that you cannot reason well with them. There should ALWAYS be leeway with tiny people.

  23. @NMK countries where people make a fuss or throw a tantrum over the need to wear masks aren’t being hit as hard as the US. They’re lives are pretty normal with businesses and schools being open…. Hmmm.

    With that said, I see fault in both parties here. These parents could have introduced masks to their kid before they fly so the kids could at least get used to masks for a shor time do they could avoid a situation like this. Wear the mask for take off, after that you let the kid take it off and put it back on when the staff comes. It’s not ideal but hey they’re kids. And airlines need to be more understanding and flexible, or be consistent on how strictly they enforce the mask rules.

    Let’s be safe, let’s be smart and get through this.

  24. Correction for my careless mistakes in my earlier comment:

    @NMK countries where people AREN’T making a fuss or throwing a tantrum over the need to wear masks aren’t being hit as hard as the US….

    My bad, hope this gets seen or people would know what I’m trying to say…

  25. A two year old might not want to wear a mask, but they’re certainly old enough to mind their parents. The parents have had eight months to get their toddler used to wearing a mask, so it’s hard for me to have empathy here. Sometimes children have to do what they don’t want to do because it’s for their own good. I think parents need to start putting some effort into getting the child used to wearing a mask because we are still in the middle of a pandemic and many businesses are going to require this for children over two. I would also like to say that traveling for a weekend and not giving yourself time to isolate is very irresponsible, especially when your little one won’t wear a mask. Isolation precautions are there for a reason.

  26. They banned a 2 years old child ? Since Noew I bann UNITED . bye bye United…will use another company even if will be more expensive

  27. You all are heartless. As for “making a scene” This dad should be canonized for not losing his cool with these assholes. I’d love to see the stats on people who train their 1.5 -2 year olds to wear masks around the house.
    And I think most of these comments completely miss point. The girls face was completely covered by her fathers mask. She was compliant and still asked to leave. What example does that set?
    NYC should be begging for tourists before the whole place goes to shit.

  28. @Tory – It’s been a long time since I had a 2 year old in the house but they don’t call them the “terrible two’s” for nothing. What they are content doing 1 minute isn’t the next. They are “children” unlike the spoiled F/A’s on this blog that spew their hatred towards passengers. The government and the airlines have weaponized the flight crews and they like to wield their power because they can, not because it’s common sense or an effort towards safety. It will take some lawsuits and some terminations before things become more balanced.

    And it’s too late, NY has already turned to shit!

  29. The child was screaming and throwing a fit and held up the flight. If there’s a .00001% chance that I will catch Covid from that child, I have no problem with them putting her off. If she didn’t infect the plane, the father was going to. He couldn’t wear the mask correctly and the other mask was a gaiter which is on the list of mask you should NOT wear. The family is risky. Ban them all! My two year old wears his mask. When he takes it off, I look at him and say “put it back on”. It’s that simple. Weak parents who do not believe Covid can kill should be banned from all airlines. SMH

  30. They deserved to be pulled off. They probably knew for a while that they was going to a problem. They did not even bother to get the kid used to wearing a mask. So the day comes, and now the kid doesn’t want to wear any mask. Why does anyone think they didn’t know this was going to be a problem?

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