Watch: Family Told to Leave Flight Because 2-Year-Old Daughter Wasn’t Wearing Mask While Eating
By C. Douglas Golden
Published April 6, 2021 at 12:52pm
Here’s how bad Spirit Airlines’ reputation has been: In 2019, the Los Angeles Times ran an article with the headline “Spirit’s new strategy: Be a less terrible airline.”
At least of late, that strategy doesn’t seem to be playing out well on social media. For the second time in two months, the ultra-low-cost carrier finds itself the subject of a viral controversy for trying to kick a family off a plane because a young child wasn’t wearing a mask.
In this case, it was a 2-year-old girl who had her mask off while she was eating.
When the family wouldn’t leave, the crew deplaned the entire flight from Orlando, Florida, to Atlantic City, New Jersey, the Orlando Sentinel reported Monday.
Video shows a flight attendant telling the family they need to leave the flight because of “noncompliance” with the mask policy.
The father, who was taking his mask on and off during the conversation with the flight attendant, made sure to put the mask back on. She then pointed to the 2-year-old.
“She’s not wearing a mask,” the flight attendant said.
“The baby?” the child’s mother asked, which elicited a nod from the flight attendant.
“You’ve been sitting next to me. Was I wearing the mask the whole time?” the father asked. “Was I wearing the mask the whole time, everybody?”
“I’ll make sure he wears it. Everything is going to be fine,” another man said.
“It’s not my choice. You have to take your stuff and get off,” the flight attendant said.
“We’re done talking. The pilot wants you off, so you have to get off.
The flight attendant warned that she would call the police, saying the family was in “noncompliance with the mask policy.”
“She’s a baby. She just turned 2 a month ago. She’s been trying to wear it,” the mom said.
Spirit’s policy, much like that of other airlines, requires children over 2 to wear masks except when eating. However, in this case, the girl was eating, so the family was in complete compliance with the mask policy.
In a second video, the clearly flustered father said his wife was pregnant and they had a special-needs child sitting nearby:
Here’s the moderately happy ending: The New York Post reported that the family was allowed the reboard the flight with a warning and no action was taken by Orlando police.
“Upon arrival, officers saw that the flight was in the middle of de-boarding. Our officers stood by, while Spirit Airlines resolved the issue,” Orlando police said in a statement.
Furthermore, Spirit Airlines changed the crew before the flight departed after a two-hour delay. Spirit insisted that the family broke the policy first and that video of police “escorting” a flight attendant away from the plane was totally incidental.
“The only thing that happened with the flight attendant was that after two hours of a delay there was a crew change required and somebody captured police who had come to the gate for the general situation locking down the concourse at the same time as this flight attendant was going on to their next assignment,” Spirit spokesman Field Sutton told WKXW-FM.
“There is no truth to claims that a flight attendant ‘wasn’t allowed to get back on board’ or that police became involved with a flight attendant,” Sutton also told the Post. “Orlando Police have stated publicly that, though present at the gate, they did not take an active role in this situation.”
However, it’s worth noting the Orlando Sentinel reported passengers applauded when a crew change was announced.
This comes after Spirit kicked the family of a 4-year-old with nonverbal autism off a plane for not wearing a mask despite the fact the parents had a note from a doctor.
“He had a medical note from his physician stating that he’s exempt from wearing masks because whenever he wears a mask he holds his breath or he starts freaking out and he will harm himself,” Callie Kimball, the boy’s mother, told Arkansas’ KTVH-TV.
“He has a disability. It’s protected under the American Disability Act and they go, ‘No no no no. Autism’s not a disability. He has to wear a mask or he has to get off the plane.’”
Kimball said she’d always flown with Spirit before without a problem. She’d flown from Little Rock to Las Vegas with no issues, but her son and her husband were stranded on the return flight.
What’s more, she said her son was obsessed with airplanes, making the situation harder.
“Kids on the spectrum, they’re usually very obsessed with something. He is obsessed with airplanes. So he was sitting in his seat being quietly and looking out the window, and this lady was like, ‘Get off!’”
Spirit Airlines said its mask policy at the time did “not provide for medical exemptions, regardless of diagnosis. Our Team Members explained this to a family traveling today, but never questioned anyone’s medical status in the process.”
However, it said passengers “with a medical disability who are traveling on or after March 22, 2021 can apply for an exemption as provided for in the federal mandate requiring masks in airports and on planes.”
There wasn’t a medical exemption in this case, although there was also no violation; the child was eating. Spirit says it’s what the family had done previously, although that’s not what the flight attendant said on the video.
It’s a case of the family’s word against the airline’s. However, when the very passengers the airline’s crew was purportedly protecting from COVID-19 infection by kicking the family off the flight reportedly cheered when that crew was switched out, I’m not sure I buy the airline’s word.
From what we saw on the video, however, we know this much:https:
We also know the answer to another key question. Apparently, Spirit Airlines hasn’t been very good at being less terrible lately.