ADA and Child Mask Policy

American Airlines and Southwest Airlines were the first carriers to institute a blanket ban on passengers with ADA disabilities who cannot not wear a face mask. Southwest stated that it would “temporarily refuse to transport any passenger who is unable to wear a mask even if the Customer has a verifiable medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask.​”

That’s 7 of the 10 largest U.S. airlines which have told disabled people with autism, asthma, cerebral palsy, claustrophobia, COPD, PTSD, severe anxiety and other conditions that they are not welcome onboard an aircraft. It is the largest ban on disabled air travel since the Air Carrier Access Act became law in 1986.

These airlines still permit disabled people to fly without a face mask

If you or someone you are traveling with has any of these conditions or is unable to wear a mask due to a legitimate disability, you will only be able to fly on the following carriers:

Allegiant Air — “Those with medical conditions that prevent the use of a face covering must provide documentation from a medical physician to the gate agent one hour prior to departure.”

Delta Air Lines — “Customers with underlying conditions that explicitly prevent the wearing of a face covering or mask are strongly encouraged to reconsider travel or should be prepared to complete a ‘Clearance-to-Fly’ process prior to departure at the airport. If you require this exemption, please arrive early to complete the process during check-in and avoid missing your flight – this process can take over one hour.”

Hawaiian Airlines — “Guests with a medical condition or disability preventing its use, will be exempt from the policy.”(wheelchairtravel.org)

*Please keep in mind that airline mask policies for ADA Passengers are quite fluid at the moment and changing without notice. A passenger could book an expensive out of town life saving surgery or medical treatment. They may arrive at the airport a few weeks later only to find out that they are no longer welcome onboard without a mask due to a policy change. There are only 3 airlines left with some limited type of ADA travel policy.

However, this only addresses the flight. It is a catch 22 situation for the ADA Disabled Passenger since there are Mandatory Mask requirements now for being inside the airport and going through TSA. There are no exemptions for these areas. Therefore, an ADA Disabled passenger could have the exemption for the particular flight but has no legal way to make it onto the flight without a mask in the secured and common areas.

No Exceptions for Autistic Children and Toddlers 2 Years or older:

These Child Mask Policies are all over the map and may change at the drop of a hat. As of today, Delta is not requiring compliance for young children who cannot maintain a face covering and unaccompanied minors are exempt from the mask requirement and do not require a pre-travel clearance. However, they are one of the most stringent in the news for banning adults for even the slightest non-compliance. Therefore, I do not know how trustworthy that policy statement is or how long it will remain in effect.

Allegiant may be the last semi-flexible hold out. We will see just how long this one lasts. As of today Allegiant is the only one of the remaining 3 carriers in America with some vague type of ADA Waiver policy. Allegiant currently only requires a Doctors Note and is not requiring the hour long airport Virtual Medical Evaluation for the ADA Disabled Traveler Mask Wavier. Allegiant seems to be the only airline offering ADA Waiver for their actual Airline Employees as well. The airline will make exceptions for those employees with medical conditions that prevent the use of a face covering.

The harshest Child and Toddler enforcement policies appear to be at Southwest and Jet Blue:

This past week Southwest Airlines removed a passenger and her 3-year-old son from a Monday flight after the boy, who has autism, refused to wear a face mask and became upset. Passenger Alyssa Sadler, who was also traveling with her 1-year-old daughter, told CNN affiliate KPRC that the family was deplaned from the Southwest flight from Midland, Texas, to Houston, Texas. “It was just not a good morning,” said Sadler. “He was screaming. He was throwing a fit. He was screaming no, no, no.”Sadler told KPRC her son has a sensory processing disorder and doesn’t like his face being touched and that she had a medical note explaining the condition. (cnntravel)

Southwest Mask Policy:

All travelers 2 years and older must wear a face covering over their nose and mouth throughout their journey, including during check-in, boarding, while in flight and deplaning. Masks with vents or exhalation valves are not permitted. Plastic face shields may be worn in addition to a face covering but not in place of one. Customers with conditions that prevent them from wearing a face covering should postpone travel until this temporary requirement is no longer in place.

  • ONLY young children under the age of 2 are exempt.
  • If a Customer is unable to wear a face covering for any reason (even a verifiable medical condition), we regret that we are unable to transport the Customer at this time, due to safety risk of asymptomatic COVID-19 transmission by Customers without face coverings. In other words, because of public health guidance recognizing the important role of face coverings in preventing the transmission of COVID-19, Southwest will temporarily refuse to transport any passenger who is unable to wear a mask even if the Customer has a verifiable medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask.​
  • In the future, if there is a change in public health guidance on face coverings or other changed circumstances impacting Safety, Southwest looks forward to welcoming all passengers on board again safely.  In the meantime, Southwest encourages all Customers who are unable to wear a face covering (even due to a verifiable medical condition) to postpone air travel, or consider other forms of transportation.

This past week a Family with 6 children were removed at JetBlue:

A Brooklyn mother traveling with six children from Orlando to New York was kicked off a JetBlue flight on Wednesday because her 2-year-old would not wear a face mask as required. Videos of the mother, Chaya Bruck, speaking with a flight attendant before the plane took off have been shared widely on social media. A video posted on social media shows Bruck talking to a flight attendant about her daughter not wearing a mask. “You realize she’s 2?” Bruck says.”I do, and also, it’s not something we can excuse,” the flight attendant responds in the video. 

“So should I tie her hands? What should I do?” Bruck asks the flight attendant in the video. The toddler sitting next to her appears to be visibly uncomfortable by the arguing. JetBlue told CBS News that Bruck told a flight attendant her child was not going to wear a mask. The doors of the flight were still open and the flight attendant followed procedure by calling a JetBlue airport supervisor to handle the situation.  Videos of the incident show fellow passengers becoming frustrated, many of them coming to Bruck’s defense, saying the 2-year-old should be excused for not keeping the mask on. JetBlue said the cabin became boisterous and a decision to deboard the plane was made.(cbsnews.com)

JetBlue Mask Policy:

All travelers 2 years and older must wear a face covering over their nose and mouth throughout their journey, including during check-in, boarding, while in flight and deplaning. Masks with vents or exhalation valves are not permitted. Plastic face shields may be worn in addition to a face covering but not in place of one. Customers with conditions that prevent them from wearing a face covering should postpone travel until this temporary requirement is no longer in place.

Flying for families with small children or ADA Disabled Passengers has become a very slippery slope these days. The policies for children and the disabled are changing without notice. Therefore, you can not really plan or know how things will go. Families with children and disabled may have to travel by car or postpone travel for the near future. This leaves the ADA Disabled customers who are traveling for medical treatments or surgeries to out of state specialized medical procedures at a great disadvantage. The numbers of Cancer Deaths has skyrocketed globally since these new rules went into place. This is mainly attributed to these patients not having access to their Cancer Screenings and Cancer Treatments.

Report Airlines for ADA and ACAA Violations:

Airlines violate the Air Carrier Access Act and Americans with Disabilities Act at the expense of disabled travelers every day. Most travelers take these violations in stride and put the negative experiences behind them. As a result, airlines have little incentive to comply with the law. This article outlines the process for enforcing your rights under the ACAA and holding airlines responsible for any violations. When violations occur, passengers should first report the violation to the airline within 45 days. This is best done through a comment or complaint form on the carrier’s website. This allows for the airline to respond in writing and creates a paper trail. After you have received a response to your complaint with the airline, you may file a complaint with the DOT at www.transportation.gov. This allows the agency to investigate violations of the ACAA, impose sanctions, and require the airline to demonstrate efforts to prevent future violations.You can file an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) complaint alleging disability discrimination against a State or local government or a public accommodation (private business including, for example, an airline, restaurant, doctor’s office, retail store, hotel, etc.). A complaint can be filed online using the link below, by mail, or by facsimile. (wheelchairtravel.org) (ADA.gov)

ADA Americans with Disabilities Act: Online Complaint Form

It seems as though the ADA Laws have just been thrown out the window for the time being. This combined with just the combative, hostile and miserable travel experience these days has caused travel bookings to plummet by 75 percent. Those kind of load factors are not sustainable for airlines to survive. Many passengers have instead chosen to do more car trips at nearby vacation spots. The more affluent wealthier and business travelers which are the bread and butter for commercial airline profit margins have opted for Private Jet Travel. Corporate Jet business is up 250 percent for 2020 while commercial aviation is down 75 percent.

Business Travelers are now working remotely and doing business conferences as well as meetings via Zoom. This is a very dangerous trend for the First Class and Business Class Markets. These travelers are making major changes to how they travel and do business. The million dollar question is to whether any of those passengers will be back if and when commercial aviation ever normalizes again. Only time will tell.

Aviation Travel Writer: The Flight Times Blog

aviationtravelwriter.com

Link: cbsnews.com

Link: cnntravel

Link: wheelchairtravel.org

Link: wheelchairtravel.org

Link: ADA.gov


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