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Southwest plane returns to gate because 2-year-old not wearing mask

Southwest plane returns to gate because 2-year-old not wearing mask
© Greg Nash

A woman said she and her 2-year-old son were recently booted from a Southwest Airlines flight in Florida because he didn’t have on a mask.

Jodi Degyansky, 34, told USA Today that she and her son were on a flight departing from Fort Myers, Fla., on Saturday when she was approached by airline staff after she said her son removed his mask for a snack. 

Degyansky said she was repeatedly told that her son was required to wear a mask due to the airline’s policy, which mandates all customers ages 2 and older wear face coverings while traveling to curb the spread of COVID-19.

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As a result, Degyansky said the plane returned to the gate and she and her son, whom she said eventually put on his mask again, were escorted from the flight.

Degyansky said she “was left scrambling” after the incident and ended up buying a $600 flight from American Airlines to return to Chicago after discovering Southwest didn’t have another direct flight for the trip until Monday.

“What if I didn’t have the resources to buy a $600 ticket?” she asked.

"I'm sure other parents are going through this. I want people to either do their homework before they choose to fly or find an airline that has more leniency," she also told USA Today. 

Degyansky said Southwest has told her it will be issuing her a refund.

Ro Hawthorne, a spokesperson for Southwest, said in a statement to The Hill on Monday that the incident is under review.

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Hawthorne also said the company’s mask policy is communicated to “all customers at multiple touchpoints 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.” 

That form, Hawthorne said, appears “during the check-in process on the Southwest app, Southwest.com, Southwest’s mobile website, and airport kiosks.”

“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,” Hawthorne added. 

The Saturday incident marks the latest report of a major airline's plane returning to the gate due to a customer not adhering to policies requiring face masks amid the ongoing pandemic.