A mother traveling from Florida to Illinois on Southwest Airlines said she was escorted off her flight because her two-year-old son wasn’t wearing mask as he snacked before takeoff.
Jodi Degyansk and son, Hayes Jarobe, boarded their flight at Southwest Florida International Airport on Saturday with plans to return to their home in Chicago.
The pair had previously flown south to visit family in Naples, and didn’t expect to have any issues on their return flight.
Degyansky, 34, told News Press that the flight attendants on her plane to Florida had been very understanding regarding her son wearing a mask, but that wasn’t the case on the trip back.
‘On the way back I was surprised the flight attendants were much stricter,’ she said.
Jodi Degyansk (right), pictured with her son Hayes Jarobe (left), said they were removed from a Southwest Airlines flight on Saturday over the face mask policy
Degyansky said that after they were in their assigned seats, Hayes took his face mask off to munch on some snacks that were served.
Like many families, Degyansky has been forced to navigate pandemic-era CDC guidelines that might be difficult for young children, including wearing face masks for an extended period of time.
‘We are trying to get used to it, but he’s two,’ she said.
On more than one occasion, Degyansky said she was confronted by flight attendants who told her that Hayes would need to wear a face masks throughout the flight.
‘Flight attendants kept coming over asking if we would wear it the full flight, and I said he would. It definitely was a struggle but something we’re working on,’ she told NBC 2.
Degyansky (left) said a flight personnel confronted them repeatedly about her son’s face mask, and that she tried to adhere to the airline’s guidelines
Degyansky: ‘My toddler who literally turned 2 two weeks ago. … I know you have to draw the line but let’s be a little compassionate with everyone’s individual circumstances’
She said repeatedly attempted to keep the mask on her son’s face and tried to be in accordance with Southwest Airline’s flight rules.
After another confrontation with a flight attendant, Degyansky and her son were asked to leave the flight.
‘A couple minutes later, we were pulled back into the gate and I was asked to leave the plane accompanied by the manager, the supervisor, the flight attendants, and the pilot,’ she said.
CDC guidelines state that any children aged two and up should wear a proper face mask if it’s difficult to social distance.
‘My toddler who literally turned 2 two weeks ago. … I know you have to draw the line but let’s be a little compassionate with everyone’s individual circumstances,’ she told News Press.
The flight attendant explained to Degyansky that some parents had used snacking as an excuse to not put face masks on their young children.
But Degyansky said she supports wearing face masks and acknowledged the how it can curb the virus’ spread.
The pair eventually flew home on an American Airlines flight that day after paying an additional $600 for a new ticket
Degyansky: ‘I want people to either do their homework before they choose to fly or find an airline that has more leniency’
‘I’m sure other parents are going through this,’ she said. ‘I want people to either do their homework before they choose to fly or find an airline that has more leniency.’
Dr. Annette St. Pierre-MacKoul, a pediatrician in Fort Myers, told NBC 2 that she agrees with the CDC recommendations but said compassion should be shown as well.
‘Two years old is the youngest they should be wearing masks because under two years of age it can actually be a choking hazard,’ she told the publication.
‘Between two and three I think it’s really not fair depending on the circumstances of where they were flying and what they were doing.’
Degyansky said it was embarrassing to have the plane return to the gate and be escorted off with flight personnel.
Degyansky (left), pictured with Hayes (right), said Southwest Airlines agreed to refund her the ticket money, but she had not received it as of Sunday
She added that Southwest Airlines offered to find her a flight for later in the day, but none were direct to Chicago. The next direct flight was on Monday.
She booked a flight on Saturday with American Airlines instead, but it came with a $600 charge.
‘I just felt like I can’t believe it happened. I was left scrambling — how the hell am I going to get home?’ said Degyansky. ‘What if I didn’t have the resources to buy a $600 ticket?’
She said that Southwest Airlines agreed to refund her the money, but has not done so as of Sunday.
Southwest Airlines sad in a statement that they are investigating the matter, but maintained that their flight policies should be followed as closely as possible.
‘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,’ a spokesperson told News Press.
‘Caring for others with our Southwest Hearts is at the center of everything we do, which is especially important during this pandemic.
‘We appreciate the ongoing support and spirit of cooperation among our Customers and Employees as we collectively take care of each other while striving to prevent the spread of COVID-19.’
Between Illinois and Florida, there is about a 400,000 difference in confirmed cases.
In Illinois, health officials have recorded more than 262,700 cases and amassed 8,214 deaths over the past six months. Chicago accounted for 75,000 of those infections and Cook County, where Chicago is located, counted 5,100 deaths.
In Florida, where cases skyrocketed during the summer, there have been 664,000 cases and 12,600 deaths. The city of Naples, in Collier County, reported 12,200 cases and nearly 200 deaths.