California family says they were treated like criminals on a Southwest flight because their toddler wouldn't keep his mask on

·2 min read
A Southwest Airlines plane lands at Los Angeles International Airport next to American Airlines planes.
A Southwest Airlines plane at Los Angeles International Airport. FG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images/Getty

A California family said Southwest Airlines "just wanted them off the plane" when their 3-year-old son refused to keep his face mask on.

After the experience, the family vowed to never fly on the airline again.

Eric Hansen, his wife, and their toddler were all ready to fly from Las Vegas to San Jose, California, on July 23, KRON4 reported.

"They're a pretty big airline in the Bay Area but I am going to do all I can to not get another one of their flights and potentially go through another situation like this," Hansen told KRON4.

Hansen said two flight attendants and a gate agent treated them like criminals. When they feared police were being called to arrest them, they voluntarily stepped off the flight, KRON4 reported.

The family said they had to spend an extra night in Las Vegas without any of their checked baggage.

"They should have given us more time, maybe walked away and said we will give you five or 10 minutes, but their flight was late so I think they were trying to make time. They just wanted us off the plane and they didn't give us any time to talk him through it and try to get him to put it on," Hansen said, KRON4 reported.

Hansen complained to the airline, which sent him an email apologizing for his experience on the flight. But the airline also mentioned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's federal mask mandate: "All customers (age 2 or over) are required to wear a mask. If the customer does not comply with crew member instructions, we may refuse transportation."

Southwest Airlines did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Hansen told KRON4 that the policy was inconsistent because his son was maskless on both the inbound flight to Las Vegas and the rebooked Southwest flight to San Jose the next day.

In a similar incident in April, a family of three was booted from a Southwest Airlines flight after their 2-year-old could not keep his mask on.

In that case, a passenger named Erik Harvey; his wife, Michelle; and their toddler, Jackson, were all ready to fly from Denver to Austin, Texas, on April 1, Fox News reported. But they were told to leave because Jackson was unmasked.

A good Samaritan later stepped in to help them reach their intended destination at no extra cost.

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