CHICAGO, Illinois -- A Chicago mother said she and her toddler son were kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight because he wasn't wearing a mask.
Jodi Degyansky said her 2-year-old son was eating snacks on the plane before it took off Saturday from Florida to Midway Airport.
The incident was partially captured on cell phone video, which begins when a Fort Meyers Airport gate agent is already asking Degyansky and her son to leave the flight.
"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 said.
She admitted her son was distracted by his snack.
"It was definitely a struggle in the moment because he did have food in front of him, so at two years of age he was a little more distracted with the food than wanting to pull the mask up over his face,:" said Degyansky.
On the way down, she said, that had been just fine. She had even taken a photo of him maskless on the plane.
"The flight attendants were absolutely fine with him 'working on it,' is what they said," she recalled. "'Just work on it. Try to wear it.'"
But on Saturday, the Southwest crew wasn't having it.
"They said, 'Families have been using eating as an excuse so their kids don't have to wear masks,'" she said. '"I said 'That's absolutely not the case here.'"
Degyansy said after asking a flight attendant to give her six feet of space, the plane turned around and that's when the gate agent forced the mother and son off the flight.
"I felt completely disrespected by the gate agent," Degyansky said. "It was a really stressful, emotional situation and totally humiliating because, again, we were following the guidelines set in place by the airline."
In a statement, Southwest said it "requires all customers over the age of two to wear a face covering or face mask while traveling to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19," and "if a customer is unable to wear a face covering for any reason, Southwest regrets that we are unable to transport the individual."
"We got our luggage, packed up, went back through security, and paid almost $600 for an American flight home," Degyansky said.
On that flight, she said, her son slept maskless. American Airlines doesn't require masks until age 3.
Florida is on Chicago's travel quarantine list and Degyansky said both she and her son are abiding by that 14-day quarantine. Southwest said it will refund anyone removed from a flight, but Degyansky said she has yet to hear from anyone from the airline or receive a refund.
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