As if flying with a small, squirmy child weren’t already a nightmare, the parents of young children now need to worry about keeping masks on toddlers, or risk getting booted off the plane. Which, we get the need for mandatory masks on planes for the safety of everyone on board too. It’s cruddy situation for everyone involved, as the story of a Chicago mom recently illustrated.
Jodi Degyansky had flown with her 2-year-old son from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Southwest Airlines with little incident. Her son didn’t wear his mask the entire time, but the flight attendants understood that she was trying.
“The flight attendants were absolutely fine with him ‘working on it,’ is what they said,” she told ABC 7 in Chicago. “‘Just work on it, try to wear it.'”
A Chicago mother said she and her young son were kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight because he wouldn't keep his face mask on while eating snacks. https://t.co/MYu5akKGxh
— ABC 7 Chicago (@ABC7Chicago) September 15, 2020
But on Saturday, when they were flying home, her son wasn’t wearing a mask as they were about to take off, which Degyansky said was because he was eating.
“They came over maybe four or five times and asked him to pull up his mask, will he wear his mask the duration of the flight, are you confident he’ll wear his mask? Which I absolutely was,” she told ABC.
According to Southwest’s website the airline’s policy is that every passenger over age 2 must wear a mask, online with exceptions for brief breaks to eat and drink (and no exceptions for people who can’t wear masks for medical reasons). This is the same policies at all other major U.S. airlines.
When Degyansky pointed out that her son was eating, “They said ‘Families have been using eating as an excuse so their kids don’t have to wear masks.’ I said ‘That’s absolutely not the case here.'”
In another interview with WinkNews, she said she had eventually persuaded her son to stop eating and wear his mask, but it was too late.
“The gate manager came up and said, ‘Ma’am, you need to deboard the plane. Your son is improperly wearing his mask,’” Degyanksy said. “It was awful. I don’t think I’ve ever been that upset or humiliated.”
She wound up having to go home via American Airlines. Though that airline also has a stated 2-and-up mask rule, the attendants appear to have been more flexible, or at least more patient.
None of this is because Degyanksy is anti-mask. “I’ve read a lot about showing your kids themselves in the mirror or showing your kids getting together and playgroups and having the kids see how cool it is to wear masks,” she told Wink. “We do all of that. That’s very important.”
That statement is important for us to know too. She is just another mother who was trying to do her best to follow this new set of rules, not a COVIDiot who thinks mask-wearing is a left-wearing conspiracy. But anyone who’s ever so much as sat in the same room as a 2-year-old knows that their ability to follow rules is spotty at best. So the question is — how do airlines and parents strike a balance between understanding child behavior and keeping everyone onboard healthy?
The answer, as much as it sucks, may be that some kids just can’t fly right now.
You may have better luck getting your child to wear a mask if they love its design. Start by shopping these kids face masks.