Southwest famously kicked a family off of a flight last week because their 3 year old autistic child wouldn’t wear a mask. Southwest’s policy is clear that all children 2 years old or older have to wear one, and there are no exceptions. Not everyone can wear a mask, and those that aren’t able to cannot fly Southwest at this time.
JetBlue’s policy is similar, saying that anyone who cannot wear a mask “should postpone travel until this temporary requirement is no longer in place.” And JetBlue has now enforced their policy against a two year old.
Everyone Was Kicked Off The Flight Because A 2 Year Old Wasn’t Wearing A Mask
A mother traveling with her six children from Orlando to Newark were removed from a JetBlue flight because although she and five of her children were wearing a mask – this was not a family taking some sort of ideological stand – her two year old was not wearing one.
- The mother had understood JetBlue’s policy not to require masks for small children. That was the policy when she bought the ticket, not when she traveled.
- The two year old wouldn’t wear a mask. To keep the child from screaming she had a pacifier in the child’s mouth.
Flight attendants insisted the family deplane, but they would not do so – so the Captain ordered the entire flight to get off. At that point,
Most people on the flight began sticking up for the woman, and screaming at the flight attendants. The screaming continued in the terminal, as irate passengers were seen on viral videos calling on everyone to call customer service and complain.
Yeshiva World News has video (which was provided by the family that was kicked off):
JetBlue Is Within Its Rights, But Requiring Masks On Two Year Olds Seems Silly
The father says he plans to file a federal lawsuit against JetBlue. He’s unlikely to win, as they’re clearly within their rights to insist on mask wearing for public health reasons. At most it seems they should have been due a refund based on change in policy after ticket purchase. In the current era with limited flights (even in the Florida market) that is still an inconvenience.
Most mask confrontations have been with people who refuse to wear them because they believe it violates their freedom, even though it isn’t a government mandate and may make it possible to exercise the freedom to travel in the first place (without a heavier hand of government). Remember in April, Sara Nelson, head of the Association of Flight Attendants wanted the government to ban leisure travel altogether.
Here I think is the toughest case. Getting a two year old to consistently wear a mask can be a real challenge. And though masks generally may be helpful in limiting the spread of Covid-19, that’s far less likely to be the case with very small children.
The preponderance of evidence certainly suggests that very small children aren’t likely to spread the virus, particularly asymptomatic children under 10. There’s very little scientific basis for a mask requirement for a two year old who isn’t exhibiting symptoms of Covid-19.
I understand the desire for simple policies that are easier to enforce, and that the average passenger doesn’t understand the difference in risk which is largely the reason the government bans e-cigarettes on planes even though there’s water vapor and not second hand smoke. It’s also the case that most conclusions about the virus, though we’ve learned a lot very quickly, remain tentative so there may be a desire to err on the side of caution.
Parents With Small Children Who Can’t Wear Masks Should Fly Delta
JetBlue was certainly within its rights to remove this passenger. I wouldn’t enforce a mask policy on two year olds. My only advice for families with small children in this sort of situation is to fly Delta, because their mask policy is clear: “young children who cannot maintain a face covering and unaccompanied minors are exempt from the mask requirement.” Delta also has a clearance process for people with medical reasons not to wear a mask, that involves a virtual doctor consultation at the airport prior to travel.