Southwest Tells Mother To “Glue” Mask Onto Her Two Year Old’s Face

On August 12 a mother was traveling with her husband, four year old, and two year old from Orlando To Norfolk, Virginia. While they traveled well to Florida, they were having difficulty with the younger child on the way home. The two year old wouldn’t keep her mask on, because she sucks her thumb and the mask gets in the way.

Two flight attendants, the woman said, stood over them watching as she struggled with the child. And one suggested she “glue it to her face.” And, “[t]he flight attendant, Cleek said, indicated she had glue available.”

“I just know that regardless if it was sarcasm or not I was embarrassed and trying to follow the mandate as much as I could,” Cleek said. “My daughter is 2. We were doing everything we could to comply.”

In her post, she wrote “I don’t like being this person. Wearing a mask is the federal mandate… I get it. I respect it. But at some point we have to have human decency. Compassion.”

The mother, for her part, doesn’t “want parents to feel like they have to hold down their child to put on a mask.”

According to Southwest Airlines,

The federal mask mandate for travelers has been in effect since February 2, 2021 and requires all passengers over the age of two to wear a mask at all times throughout the travel journey. We [Southwest] appreciate the ongoing cooperation among our customers as we work, collectively, to follow the federal mandate and support the comfort and wellbeing of all who travel with us during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

As a note, customers are reminded of the federal mask mandate multiple times prior to travel. Southwest provides reminders during the booking process on our website; in pre-trip emails sent to customers prior to departure; and as a part of a customer’s Health Declaration Form that must be acknowledged during the check-in process on the Southwest app,, Southwest’s mobile website, and airport kiosks.

Note that even the Southwest spokesperson gets the mandate wrong, saying it is for those “over the age of two” when it’s required for those two and over.

Throughout the pandemic, two year olds and their families have been getting kicked off of planes due to mask issues: on United, JetBlue, Frontier, American, and Southwest. Before the mask mandate was federal Delta allowed two year olds to travel maskless.

I have been pro-mask since long before the CDC recommended them. I argued that air crew should be permitted to wear them, back when American Airlines still forbid it in March 2020. And I argued throughout last year and up to the present that people should be wearing better masks, initially Level 3 procedure masks and verifiable KN95s or KF94s, and then when they became more broadly available properly fitted N95s. However a mask mandate for two year olds is stupid.

About 50% of cases in young children, pre-Delta variant, were asymptomatic. When they aren’t, symptoms are generally mild. For very young children risk remains very low even with Delta and marginally lower risk than flu and RSV. Young children have also been less likely to spread the virus, even in households. And planes have far better air filtration and air flow than homes (or bars, restaurants and other indoor congregant settings where people go maskless in muhc of the country). In any case, a thin strip of paper with two strings, which satisfies the mandate, does little to protect anyone.

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. I agree that “(i)n any case, a thin strip of paper with two strings, which satisfies the mandate, does little to protect anyone.” Time to end the mandate and let those who have decided they want to be stuffed shoulder to shoulder in an aluminum tube with their fellow man (who can’t give two shits about anyone else) but still wish to protect themselves use an N95 or similar. Stop treating passengers like con-air poisoners. The mandate is ridiculous in its enforcement. A full grown adult can circumvent it by spending an entire flight eating and drinking but a 2 year old is told to glue it on because they suck their thumb.

  2. Seriously why do we even have flight attendants? Don’t tell me for safety. Just put a security guard on board and call it a day. Seems like they are always calling on passengers to help them in medical/physical emergencies anyways. We don’t have multiple attendants on other public transport.

  3. Use glue. That’s a great idea. If these FA’s hate their job so much then please quit. Do something else. Anything. Tired of their pathetic power kicks.

  4. In the flight attendants’ favor – at least they did not suggest stapling the mask on.

  5. Gary….you said it “In any case, a thin strip of paper with two strings, which satisfies the mandate, does little to protect anyone.” I believe those with medical knowledge know this, but we are at a point where people are willing to make compromises just to get back to some semblance of ‘normal’. I believe the normal we should be striving to get back to is a world where individuals have freedom…the freedom to take a risk and travel or go to a sporting event or fly. What we have allowed ourselves to be conditioned to accept is a world where a select few so called ‘health experts’ make decisions for us and force them on us supplanting any freedoms we once had. When this kind of thinking takes root, we get this kind of so called logical thinking that leads to someone actually suggesting gluing a mask to a child’s face which in any other world would be considered child abuse. I believe we are in a world where people have a massively perverted view of ‘risk’ itself mostly due to misinformation and fear tactics spread abroad by a complicit media….and this is combined with a lack of logical thinking…but fear does this to people, experiments prove it…it paralyzes people and results in poor decisions. You may have been pro-mask all along…I have been pro-freedom all along and along with freedom comes responsibility and consequences for one’s actions. When we strap our children into the car to get to the airport we take a calculated risk…one that is far more riskier than the risk of Covid-19 for children or even adults 50 or so and younger. Also, there are treatments for Covid but there are none for a head on collision…yet we take the risk because it’s calculated. The bottom line is that there is far more to ‘not getting Covid’ than just not coming into contact with it. Sure, we should avoid going to our neighbors or friend’s house if they have it right…but beyond that, it is irrational to think that somehow with distancing and masks we can avoid coming in contact with the virus. That is not how viruses work, this virus is endemic, it is everywhere and the variants won’t stop just like the flue never stops, it will ebb and flow forever. We need to understand that every day we come in contact with germs and viruses and bacteria, etc. some of which can make us sick, others that might kill us. Our immune system is what does the heavy lifting here folks…not masks and not distancing. The CDC has done a terrible job of reminding people of how to bolster the immune system and I’d also argue that despite right to try, treatment protocols have been horrific. To the highly vulnerable I’d say, do your risk analysis and stay out of high risk for contact situations, but for the rest of of it is time to support our immune systems, rely on our immune systems, have a plan to treat if you get sick and move on!

  6. Crisis reveals character. It is sad that airlines are finding out what their employees are made of via video clips that are leaving customers badly impacted.
    excellent words, @mark r

  7. Hmmm
    So when you see your dentist or have surgery you say that fabric with string doesn’t so anything? Ok.

  8. @Mark : Wearing a (required) seatbealt in your example is akin to the mask mandate. Not the act of getting in the car and going places. You still at risk with a mask, the same as you are with a seatbelt. But it decreases your chances when used it right. Nothing is riskless, but risk can be managed.

  9. Mark, you appear to have practiced and refined your rant to what it has become today. A humble suggestion: Perhaps you can shorten your opinion for succinctness and brevity or supplement it with cited works and expert analysis for credibility.

  10. I was on a southwest Airlines flight to Hobby from Baltimore. There were two little boys about 5 and 7 that argued who was going to get the window seat. Both parents were seen managing their kids however listening to the two flight attendants who were watching. One told the other that she called it in and informed the pilot. The plane was still boarding at this time. Listening to the two attendants they were very irritated and lacked any reserve or compassion. Southwest at its finest!

  11. Perhaps aircraft should be classified as Adults Only — or at least 13 and older.
    If parents have children under that age, that’s what we have the interstate highway system for. (sarcasm mode full on).

    Or the Alaska solution that involves large numbers of ordinary people with pilot’s licenses and aircraft out the back.
    Or aircraft with only 20 passenger slots. Would remove a LOT of risk.

  12. @Aldo – I have considered your seatbelt analogy and there is a flaw. I wear (or I am legislated to wear) a seatbelt to protect me. I can assess the risk to myself in terms of both the potential physical harm and monetary penalty and choose to wear it or take it off. It has never been about trying to create a social contract of mutual aid and protection in wearing a seatbelt. A piece of paper with strings as Gary so eloquently stated does nothing to protect me and is questionable as to the level of protections it offers others. Vaccines are widely available, N95 masks can offer personal protection. Time for the government to stop mandating and let everyone chose for themselves what level of risk they are prepared to tolerate and which of the available layers of protection they wish to use or not use. A better analogy may be stop signs I come to a complete stop because if I didn’t someone who was expecting me to would be harmed if I kept going. However, unlike hoping someone else’s face diaper will protect me, I stop at a stop sign, look carefully and only proceed once clear not because I know my fellow motorist will do the same, but the opposite, I assume they won’t and its up to me to protect myself, regulate my risk tolerance and acceptance.

  13. I have full confidence that the current mask mandate will be extended till at least November (from September 13). Good luck, anti-maskers. You can stay home. I’ll still comfortably fly around the country and around the world knowing that masks will continue to protect me and others already me.

    I can’t believe how selfish Americans are. Shame.

  14. CNBC reported the Biden Administration will extend the mask mandate for airplanes and airports until January 18th next year.

  15. I agree with the part that the airlines remind you constantly. I boarded an American flight a couple of weeks ago, and I really am confident I was counting correctly that they reminded us six times. Masking two year olds is theatre.

  16. United really is a pleasure these days. Unfortunately I am using up WN flight credits Thursday.

  17. These overpaid waiters and waitresses are overpaid in addition to being paid too much. My guess is that the ratio of crappy pax out of total pax is far lower than crappy fas to total fas. I’ll make that bed all day long. All day. It is not at all refutable.

  18. Unfortunately, Covid has brought out the worst in people and companies. Southwest has demonstrated that they are ultimately not customer orientated.

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