Spirit Airlines has announced that they are updating their face mask policy for flying during the coronavirus pandemic. This is occurring after a young boy and his family were asked to leave a Spirit plane because he wasn’t wearing a mask.
Four year old Carter Kimball has autism. His mother Callie claims that 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 family flew on Spirit from their home in Arkansas to visit family in Las Vegas with no issues. But when they tried to fly home, the airline refused to let them fly because Carter, who is non-verbal, was not wearing a mask.
Airlines, which were forced to make up their own rules under former president Trump’s administration, were refusing flight to anyone over the age of two to not wear a mask, regardless of disability. As of February 1, 2021, the CDC, under the direction of President Joe Biden, changed that and airlines are now required to waive face mask rules for any person with a disability who cannot wear a mask, or cannot safely wear a mask, because of a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Callie reports she specifically said, “He has a disability. It’s protected under the American Disability Act and they go, ‘No no no. Autism’s not a disability. He has to wear a mask or he has to get off the plane.'”
Following the CDC’s ruling of Feb. 1st, the DOT’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection informed airlines that, effective Feb. 5th, they must grant face mask exceptions to qualified disabled people. However, airlines had a 45-day grace period where they had immunity from enforcement action to make necessary policy and procedure changes.
Some airlines made their changes immediately. With one of the strictest mask policies ever since they became a requirement for flying, Spirit was not one of them. As recently as mid-February 2021, their policy was:
Spirit requires appropriate face coverings during your entire journey with us. The only exception to this policy is children under age 2.” Passengers who are “unable to wear an appropriate face covering for any reason, including medical, will not be permitted to travel with us at this time.”
Following the incident with Carter and his family, Spirit says it plans to change its policy and allow for medical exemptions. From The Hill:
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.
Coincidentally (or not), March 22, 2021, is exactly 45 days after the DOT announcement.
Spirit issued the Kimballs a refund for their unused flight. The family was eventually able to rebook with American Airlines, at the cost of $1000, since that airline accepted the doctor’s note.
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#stayhealthy #staysafe #washyourhands #wearamask
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary
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If you’re curious…
American Airlines used to have a no-exceptions policy too, but it promptly added exceptions when the federal mandate went into effect.