A single mother was kicked off an interstate flight last week over her inability to force a mask on her fussy 2-year-old son.
Rachel Davis saw the last leg of a return trip to her home state of New Hampshire transformed into a full-blown nightmare on Sept. 17, when American Airlines emptied a preboarded flight in pursuit of full compliance with its coronavirus-related public health protocols.
Accompanied by her own mother, Davis was flying out of Charlotte, North Carolina, after a week in Florida on business and was convinced by a confirmation email and lenient policy enforcement on numerous flights that week that her newly 2-year old son was clear to fly without a mask.
When the family initially boarded its final flight, however, they found the opposite to be true.
They were greeted by one crew member in particular who demanded that a baggage-encumbered Davis immediately cover her child’s face.
In the moments that followed, Davis later wrote on Instagram, she was continually berated by flight staff, who continued with their demands as emotions ran high and she, her mother and a helpful stranger attempted to mask the toddler under threat of permanent removal from the plane.
“They put me in an impossible situation as a mom and as a passenger,” Davis told The Western Journal in a telephone interview.
“No mom should ever feel like I felt on that flight. No nana should ever feel like she felt, my mom felt on that flight.”
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I’m at a complete loss of words. The eyes of a mama-bear who just bawled her eyes out as she was forced off an airplane because her 2 year old wouldn’t keep his mask on. I tried repeatedly, begged him, bribed him, pleaded with him, did everything I could while he was screaming and crying as I tried to hold him and put the mask on, feeling my absolute lowest of lows as a mother. Before I even sat in my seat, flight attendant Terry on American Airlines flight 5595 from Charlotte, NC to Manchester, NH on September 17th, approached me and asked how old my son is, and demanded according to their policy he wear a mask. I told her this is our fourth American Airlines flight this week, and he has never been asked to wear a mask. She informed me he (my overtired two year old son) would need to comply with their company policy or we would be asked to leave the aircraft. As I tried to put down my things and get a mask out, I heard Terry on the phone saying “yea it’s clear there is going to be a problem and we will need you to come down”. The nastiest smug look on her face. I’ll save you the rest of the horror that happened on the plane, as I continued trying to get him to wear the mask, bawling my eyes out and hyperventilating behind my own suffocating mask. Desperate to get home after the worst week. He would have been asleep before we even pushed back if they had just been humans. The pilot had the final say, Lyon wears the mask or they will escort us off the plane. Rather than get themselves any bad press by escorting a crying mom and two year old off the plane, they forced everyone to deplane, and wouldn’t let us back on the flight home. Apparently before we got off the plane everyone who left before us lit up the crew in the gate area. The Captain walking right by me as I screamed my head off in my absolute worst moment. They moved us to a flight tonight, on the same airline who’s company policy kicked us off the last flight, because my two year old son wouldn’t keep a mask securely over his nose and mouth at all times. This is the world we live in? This is not a mask debate. This is a ‘be a god damned human’ debate. I will NEVER fly AA again.
According to USA Today, all 12 major airlines require that individuals age 2 and older don face coverings in order to fly, with specific medical exceptions made on a company-by-company basis.
The widespread policy is maintained despite discrepancies between the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the optimal age at which children should begin wearing masks — and American Airlines is no outlier in enforcing it.
“To ensure the safety of our customers and team, American Airlines requires all persons 2 years and older to wear an appropriate face covering throughout the entirety of their journey,” a company representative told The Western Journal. “Policies are enforced and approved face coverings are made available at key points throughout the customer journey.”
“We’ve reached out to the family to learn more about their recent travel experience and to address their concerns,” the representative added.
Davis later confirmed American Airlines had contacted her in connection with an internal investigation that would also incorporate the accounts of involved staff and nearby passengers.
After receiving messages and comments suggesting she “knowingly disregarded” the face mask policy, Davis shared a screenshot of what she says is the original flight confirmation. The photo showed an email stating children “2 years old or younger” were exempt from wearing a mask.
When asked about the validity of the confirmation email, a representative from American Airlines directed The Western Journal to the “Travel Requirements” section of the airline’s website.
In both her Instagram post and telephone interview, Davis emphasized she hoped the incident would raise awareness for the lack of consideration and humanity present in the ongoing national dialogue surrounding mask policy.
“I really hope that this creates a conversation among the people in power … that they evaluate their policies and they look at them and make a change that makes sense — have a policy that has some flexibility for these circumstances, so that people aren’t being tormented,” she said.
“That was a very traumatizing experience for me and my son and my mom. I couldn’t sleep. I kept replaying it over and over in my head. Where did I go wrong? Why did it escalate to the point it did? I felt so much guilt for how I forced my hand on my son’s face like that,” Davis said.
“We cannot abandon common sense, compassion and human decency in moments where it’s absolutely necessary. And right now, that’s what’s happening all over the place.”
According to Davis, her son was already exhausted from several previous layovers and likely would have fallen to sleep before takeoff had a stir not been caused.
Instead, the child deplaned screaming, his mother in tears following numerous attempts to dress him in the mask — all made amid frustrating back-and-forth with American Airlines staff, who repeatedly accused the family of being noncompliant.
A video received by The Western Journal revealed the tail end of the incident.
“I don’t know what you want me to do to keep the mask on him,” Davis can be heard yelling through tears at the gate. “What do you want me to do, duct tape his face? He’s 2 years old, he doesn’t get it!”
It was not the first time a major airline had received media attention for over its enforcement of public health protocols.
American Airlines itself was at the center of a separate controversy in June when it temporarily banned right-wing influencer and former Democrat Brandon Straka in light of a verbal argument with flight staff over the company’s mandatory in-flight face covering policy.
The ban came just one day after Straka saw his trip to President Donald Trump’s comeback campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, interrupted during the boarding process at LaGuardia Airport over his refusal to don the required personal protective equipment.
Numerous other instances of mask-related removal from aircraft have befallen traveling parents and families, often sparking major disagreements and even fights — an increasingly common societal circumstance Davis said is untenable.
“This has divided our country and the world. … It has divided people to the point where, when faced with a situation where somebody is either doing their best or not doing their best, they are abandoning common sense, they are abandoning compassion, they are abandoning human decency,” Davis said.
“They’re not they’re not looking at this from a community perspective,” she added.
“They’re standing firm in their issue one way or the other, and rather than trying to understand where the other person is coming from now, now we’ve pinned everybody against each other and everybody’s standing firm in their position.”
UPDATE, Sept. 24, 2020: This article has been updated to include additional information from Davis as well as a screenshot she says is the flight confirmation stating children “2 years old and younger” were exempt from the American Airlines face mask policy.
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