On a return flight home to Little Rock from Las Vegas, the Kimball family was removed from a plane after their 4-year old non-verbal autistic son Carter wasn't wearing a mask. Callie Kimball told THV 11, "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."
The father and son flew Spirit Airlines to Las Vegas to visit family with no incident, but the trouble began Monday on the flight home. Kimball told the outlet that they have always flown with Spirit and never had any issues before.
According to Kimball, the pair was aboard the plane and her husband showed the flight crew the note, but was kicked off anyway. "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 told THV 11 that her son loves airplanes, and to be removed from one upset him. "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!'"
A babysitter who was travelling with the family to help with Carter wasn't allowed to deplane with the family. The father and son were stuck in Dallas and had to pay $1,000 out of pocket for a flight home on American Airlines who did accept the medical note. Though her husband asked Spirit for a refund, he has not as of yet received one.
Spirit told THV11 that they issued a refund to the family and that sometimes it takes a few days to process the refund. They also told the outlet in a statement:
"We sympathize with families facing additional burdens while traveling, including those dealing with medical conditions. Like most airlines, Spirit Airlines started requiring face coverings in May 2020 with the only exemption being one for children under age 2. We remind Guests of our face covering policy throughout the booking process, in a pre-trip email sent prior to departure, and in a required acknowledgement that is part of the check-in procedure. Our existing policy does 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. 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. We plan to add information to our website about the exemption later this week. Please visit our Information Center for more information on what we are doing to keep our Guests and Team Members safe."
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