Woman says family was kicked off flight because 4-year-old son with autism wouldn't wear mask

Woman says family was kicked off flight because 4-year-old son with autism wouldn't wear mask
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A woman says her family was kicked off a Spirit Airlines flight because her 4-year-son with autism wouldn’t wear a mask.

"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 of Little Rock, Ark., told a local CBS News affiliate.

Airlines have not allowed for medical exemptions in their mask policy throughout the pandemic due to federal guidelines on the matter, but Kimball said that previously Spirit Airlines never bothered her family about her non-verbal autistic son, Carter, not wearing a mask.

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"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. 

The airline denies the accusation that their crew said autism was not a disability. 

Carter's father says he had to pay $1,000 to fly home with American Airlines, and that Spirit Airlines has not refunded his money for the flight.

Spirit said the company refunded the family right away, but that it takes time for refunds to go through on credit cards. 

In light of new federal guidelines for airlines, Spirit says it is working to change its policies and allow for some medical exemptions on flights.

Starting March 19, 2021, Guests 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,” a spokesperson for Spirit Airlines said.

—Updated at 3:55 p.m.