BY: GENEVIEVE SHAW BROWN, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — When Jodi Degyansky and her 2-year-old son boarded their return flight from Florida to Chicago’s Midway Airport on Southwest Airlines on Sept. 12, she says she never imagined it would end with both of them being removed from the plane.
“I want to be super clear,” Degyansky told “Good Morning America.” “He was wearing his mask. We were following the rules. We were following the protocol set forth by the airline. And we still got kicked off the flight.”
The trouble began, Degyansky said, when they boarded the plane and Degyansky was getting her son situated. That included giving him a snack.
She was approached by a flight attendant, “three or four times,” and asked if her son would voluntarily wear his mask, which she said “he absolutely would.”
“He was not resistant to it, but he had the snack in front of him and every time the flight attendant came over there was a heightened level of stress,” Degyansky said. “I told him, ‘I promise he is going to wear the mask."”
She says it was different from their trip to Florida, which had taken place a week earlier. On that flight, she says the attendants were much more flexible. “Just do your best,” is what Degyansky said the attendants told her regarding her son keeping his mask on for the duration of the flight.
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At one point while conversing with the flight attendant about the mask on the return flight, Degyansky said she asked him to stand 6 feet away from her. It was this, Degyansky said, that she thinks is what ultimately got her kicked off the flight, because shortly thereafter, her son had finished his snack and his mask was in place.
“I turned around and gave the thumbs up to the flight attendant that the mask was on,” Degyansky told “GMA.” But she was informed that she was being removed from the flight. In video captured by another passenger and broadcast on ABC’s Chicago station, Degyansky and her son are seen wearing their masks and she is heard saying, “You can see the mask is clearly on his face.”
Still, she and her son, who turned 2 just a few weeks ago, were removed from the flight.
She says she paid $600 to get on a flight home on American Airlines. And while she’s requested a refund from Southwest, she told “GMA” it’s not about the money.
“I want to see consistency across the board,” Degyansky said about the seemingly different interpretations of the rules from one flight crew to the next. “Or, hopefully, more compassion on a case-by-case basis.”
“GMA” contacted Southwest for comment. While the airline said they would not comment specifically on the Degyansky situation, they said that “our Customer Relations Team is looking into this situation to learn more.”
The airline sent “Good Morning America” the following statement about their mask policy: “We communicate this policy to all Customers at multiple touchpoints throughout the travel journey including during booking, in a pre-trip email sent prior to departure, and during a required acknowledgement that’s part of the Customer Health Declaration Form which appears during the check-in process on the Southwest app, Southwest.com, Southwest’s mobile website, and airport kiosks.”
“If a Customer is unable to wear a face covering for any reason, Southwest regrets that we are unable to transport the individual,” the statement continued. “In those cases, we will issue a full refund and hope to welcome the Customer onboard in the future, if public health guidance regarding face coverings changes.
“Caring for others with our Southwest Hearts is at the center of everything we do, which is especially important during this pandemic,” the statement concluded. “We appreciate the ongoing support and spirit of cooperation among our Customers and Employees as we collectively take care of each other while striving to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Degyansky maintains that her son was wearing his mask.
“He was doing the right thing, he was being a good boy,” she said, adding that she had promised him the snack for boarding the plane properly. The little boy was “distracted by the snack,” Degyansky said, and just needed a few minutes to get ready to put the mask on.
“I understand it’s a big company with thousands of employees and they are figuring it out and moving as fast as they can,” Degyansky said. “I would just ask for some compassion from their side too.”
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