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Spirit Airlines Kicks Autistic 4-Year-Old Off Plane For Not Wearing Mask Because Autism Is 'Not A Disability'

THV11

A mother expressed her frustration after she and her husband were kicked off a Spirit Airlines flight because her four-year-old non-verbal autistic son was not wearing a mask.

Arkansas mom Callie Kimball said she is aware of the dangerous consequences of contracting the viral pathogen and expressed people should take proper health precautions. However, she explained it was detrimental for her son Carter to wear a mask due to his disability.

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."

She said her family had no issues traveling on Spirit Airlines until now.

They had no problem traveling to Las Vegas but encountered the issue when boarding for the flight back home, even when the husband showed the medical note to the flight crew.

Kimball said of Carter:

"He has a disability. It's protected under the [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."'

You can watch the THV 11 news report below.

youtu.be

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a person can be exempt from wearing a facial covering if they "cannot safely wear a mask because of [their] disability" under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The National Rehabilitation and Information Center also states individuals with sensory disabilities—including autism spectrum disorder—are sensitive to touch and texture and can experience sensory overload, panic attacks and severe anxiety if their nose and mouth are covered with fabric.


"So we're out all of our flights, a thousand bucks," said Kimball, adding, "we have a son who's just so distraught now that he like threw all of his airplanes down."

A teary-eyed Kimball continued:

"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!'"
"I've never in my life—being the parent of an autistic kid is really hard and I've never in my life experienced that kind of discrimination from someone."

American Airlines offered to accommodate the family and accepted Carter's medical note, but Kimball said she still wanted a refund from the airline they had planned to board.

Spirit Airlines confirmed in a statement they refunded the family for the airfare and said:

"We sympathize with families facing additional burdens while traveling, including those dealing with medical conditions."

The spokesperson for Spirit Airlines added:

"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."