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Family Accuses Spirit of Removing Non-Verbal Autistic Toddler over Face Covering

An Arkansas family is accusing Spirit Airlines of unfairly removing their four-year-old child with non-verbal autism off a flight from Dallas to Little Rock for not wearing a face covering. The family says the child was removed despite having a doctor’s note exempting him from wearing one.

Spirit Airlines says they are changing their policy when it comes to flyers with a medical note against face coverings, after one family claims their non-verbal autistic four-year-old child was removed for not wearing one. Little Rock, Arkansas CBS affiliate WTHV reports the airline is shifting their policy as a result of the incident.

Despite Doctor’s Note, Family Says Toddler Not Allowed to Fly

The incident took place on Monday, March 15, 2021, aboard a Spirit flight from Dallas to Little Rock. Callie Kimball told the TV station that her child, Carter, was flying home with her husband after a trip to Las Vegas. To help the non-verbal autistic four-year-old navigate the airport, the pair flew with a babysitter.

That’s when Kimball says things got out of shape. On the return leg between Dallas and Little Rock, she claims her husband and child were removed from the aircraft, because Carter refused to wear a face covering.

“He had a medical note from his physician stating that he’s exempt from wearing masks,” Kimball told the TV station. “Because whenever he wears a mask he holds his breath or he starts freaking out and he will harm himself.”

According to their take, the flight attendants claimed autism was not a covered disability, and forced the family off the flight. The babysitter was allegedly not allowed to leave with them, forcing Kimball’s husband and son to pay $1,000 for an emergency flight home.

In a statement to the TV station, Spirit acknowledged that their current policy does not “provide for medical exemptions, regardless of diagnosis.” As a result, the airline says they will change directions for future flights, and refund the passengers their money.

“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,” the statement from Spirit read, as published by WTHV. “We plan to add information to our website about the exemption later this week.”

Families Continue to Clash with Airlines Over Autistic Children and Face Coverings

Kimball’s story is not a unique case since airlines began mandating face coverings for all flyers two-years-old and above. In August 2020, a family flying Southwest claimed they were unfairly removed from a flight because their autistic child could not wear a face covering. A similar incident was reported aboard another flight in September 2020.

jamesteroh March 22, 2021

This will probably be like emotional support animals. Everyone will be claiming they have a medical reason not to wear a mask just like the tightwads who don't want to pay the checked fee will have an excuse saying their pet is a support animal. If people have health conditions where they can't wear a mask who are adults, I hope airlines start requiring proof of vaccination,

c502cid March 19, 2021

They should have said the kid identified as an elite politician.

rjpjr March 18, 2021

4-yr-old and Dad returning from a vacay in Vegas? Mom not along? "Babysitter" needed to navigate the airport? Is weed legal in AK now?

Seatback March 18, 2021

Was this a charter. Sprit doesn't fly to Little Rock. Right?

redrob March 18, 2021

So the nanny was *forced* to stay on board while the father and son were offloaded? Really?? And how could it possibly cost $1000 for two tickets on a 300 mile flight from Dallas to Little Rock? Did they charter a private jet? Something not right here.....