Mother and two-year-old escorted from flight after toddler removed mask to eat snacks

Joanna Whitehead
·3-min read

A mother and child were escorted from a Southwest Airlines flight on Saturday because her two-year-old son was snacking without a mask on prior to take-off.

Jodie Degyansky was travelling from Florida to Chicago with the low-cost carrier after visiting family in Italy.

Upon boarding the plane, her young son, Hayes, removed his mask to eat some of the snacks that were served.

Ms Degyansky said that a flight attendant asked her to put a mask on her son, but she explained that he was eating, according to USA Today.

The plane then left the gate, but was subsequently turned back round after staff decided the family needed to disembark according to the report.

Watch: What is the latest guidance on masks in the UK?

Ms Degyansky said that she argued with airline staff for 15 minutes as Hayes had placed his face mask on, but that they did not listen, replying that parents were “using snacks and chips as an excuse to not put masks on their toddlers”.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that children aged two and above should wear a mask over their nose and mouth if social distancing is a struggle.

Ms Degyansky said she is in favour of wearing face masks to stop the spread of Covid-19, but called on airlines to have more compassion when it comes to toddlers.

“We are trying to get used to it, but he's two,” she said.

”My toddler 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," she said.

Ms Degyansky described her removal from the plane as “humiliating”.

She added that Southwest Airlines offered to find her another flight home that day, but that the next direct flight wasn’t until Monday, prompting her to purchase a ticket with American Airlines for $600.

“I just felt like I can't believe it happened,” she 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?” she said.

Watch: The science behind face masks

Now Ms Degyansky is urging other parents to “do their homework” before choosing to fly “or find an airline that has more leniency."

“I’m sure other parents are going through this,” she said.

A spokesperson for Southwest Airlines told The Independent that they were “looking into the situation” to find out more about the incident and would be in touch with Ms Degyansky.

They said: “Southwest Airlines requires all customers over the age of two to wear a face covering or face mask while traveling to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

“We communicate this policy to all customers at multiple touch-points throughout the travel journey including during booking, in a pre-trip email sent prior to departure, and during a required acknowledgement that’s part of the Customer Health Declaration Form which appears during the check-in process on the Southwest app, Southwest.com, Southwest’s mobile website, and airport kiosks."

It continued: “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.”

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