Carter Kimball Spirit Airlines kicks four year old non verbal autistic boy along with his father off flight over face mask despite doctor’s exemption note.
Carter Kimball, who is non-verbal with autism, was left in tears after being removed from a Monday morning Dallas to Vegas flight, despite his Arkansas mom saying they had a doctor’s note exempting him from wearing a mask.
The four-year-old was traveling home to Little Rock, with a stopover in Dallas, with his father Cameron and babysitter after they flew out to Las Vegas, Friday to visit family.
Carter’s mom Callie Kimball said the trio had also taken the outbound trip with Spirit and there had been no issues with her son not wearing a mask on that flight.
Kimball told THV11 her husband and son boarded the plane Monday and showed the airline staff the medical note exempting Carter from its face covering mandate.
‘Starts freaking out if he wears mask’
She said her son is ‘obsessed’ with planes but, due to his autism, he holds his breath or hurts himself if a mask is put on his face.
‘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,’ Kimball said.
Kimball said Spirit staff dismissed her son’s condition telling her husband it was ‘not a disability’ and that they would have to leave the plane if he didn’t put on a mask.
‘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,”‘ she said.
‘Kids on the (autism) spectrum, they’re usually very obsessed with something,’ Callie explained. ‘He is obsessed with airplanes. So he was sitting in his seat, quietly and looking out the window, and this lady was like, ‘Get off!”
Carter’s babysitter was reportedly not allowed to leave the flight with them and was left stranded in Dallas.
While saying she understands the airline is taking precautions due to COVID-19, Kimball said Spirit’s actions were discriminatory against a person with a disability.
Was four year old discriminated against?
‘I’ve never in my life, like being the parent of an autistic kid is really hard and I’ve never in my life experienced that kind of discrimination from someone,‘ she said.
Carter and his dad managed to book onto another flight with American Airlines, Monday afternoon with airline staff allowing the boy to travel without a mask after seeing the doctor’s note.
But the family said they are now out of pocket after having to fork out an extra $1,000 for the new flights while they said they are yet to receive a refund from Spirit.
Kimball said the family have always traveled with Spirit and have never before faced such issues.
Spirit Airlines told DailyMail.com in a statement the airline does ‘sympathize’ with those traveling with medical conditions but its existing policy does not exempt anyone irrespective of diagnosis.
‘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,’ the airline said in a statement.
Shouldn’t a medical condition count? What about parental responsibility?
‘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.’
The airline did, however, announce it would introduce a way for travelers to apply for an exemption going forward.
‘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 continued.
‘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.’
The airline told THV11 its team members had explained the existing policy to the family at the time but insisted they ‘never questioned anyone’s medical status in the process.’
Spirit also said it had already refunded the family’s tickets but that there could be a delay with the credit card issuer processing the payment on their end.
The episode led to debate on social media, with one commentator posting, ‘No third party can “exempt” someone from regulations/rules set by a private business. It’s time people grew up and realized this. Sorry your child has issues but those issues do not require the rest of the world to bend to him and your demands.’
While another posted, ‘How many have this family infected through irresponsible travel with a maskless, yelling kid?’
And this comment too, ‘Viruses don’t care about autism.’
Since airliners implementing mask mandates last year and more than 2,000 passengers have since been kicked off flights or banned for not wearing them.
The CDC then issued a rule effective February 1 making refusal to wear a mask on planes or other public transport a violation of federal law, building on an order announced one day after Joe Biden took office.
Children aged under two years of age and people with a disability that makes it unsafe to wear a mask are exempt from the rule.