UPDATED, 2:45 pm. ET: Spirit Airlines has responded with a statement to TheBlaze's original story.
A 4-year-old Arkansas boy with autism was booted from a Spirit Airlines flight on Monday for not wearing a mask, despite having a doctor's note that the airline had accepted on the flight to their destination.
The experience left little Carter Kimball devastated, his mother says.
What are the details?
KTHV-TV spoke with Callie Kimball, who told the outlet that her husband and son, Carter, were kicked off their return flight via Dallas after visiting family in Las Vegas.
Callie explained that she and her husband have flown multiple times with Carter, who is severely autistic and non-verbal, and who loves airplanes.
Carter's physician supplied them with a letter to carry while traveling that explains Carter is exempt from mask mandates because of his disability. According to Callie, when Carter wears a mask "he starts freaking out," "holds his breath," and "will harm himself."
She said the Little Rock family has always flown on Spirit Airlines and never had a problem until Monday, when an employee of the airline informed them once they were boarded that "autism's not a disability" and "he has to wear a mask or he has to get off the plane."
To make matters worse, while Carter and his father were kicked off, the airline would not allow Carter's babysitter — who was traveling with them to help with Carter — to de-board the airplane with them.
Stranded in Dallas, the father and son were able to catch a flight home from American Airlines for $1,000 out of pocket, and American accepted Carter's medical note. The Kimball family initially said Monday that they were still out the money for the Spirit return flight they were thrown off of.
"So we're out all of our flights, a thousand bucks and we have a son who's just distraught now that he like threw all of his airplanes down," the mother told KTHV.
Following the initial publication of this story, Spirit Airlines told TheBlaze that the Kimballs were immediately issued a refund.
The airline also issued the following statement to TheBlaze:
We sympathize with families facing additional burdens while traveling, including those dealing with medical conditions. Like most airlines, Spirit Airlines started requiring face coverings in May 2020 with the only exemption being one for children under age 2. We remind Guests of our face covering policy throughout the booking process, in a pre-trip email sent prior to departure, and in a required acknowledgement that is part of the check-in procedure.
Our existing policy does not provide for medical exemptions, regardless of diagnosis. Our Team Members explained this to a family travelling today, but never questioned anyone's medical status in the process.
Starting March 19, 2021, Guests with a medical disability who are traveling on or after March 22, 2021 can apply for an exemption as provided for in the federal mandate requiring masks in airports and on planes. We plan to add information to our website about the exemption later this week. Please visit our Information Center for more information on what we are doing to keep our Guests and Team Members safe.
Carter is not the first young autistic child to have trouble with Spirit Airlines.
Last September, a Chicago family said the airline sent them a letter banning 3-year-old Cebastian Lewis after he kept removing his mask on a return flight home.
During a layover, the family says, Spirit employees made the entire plane de-board and filed a police report against the family.
According to WFLD-TV, Spirit argued that the family was using profanity and being uncooperative.
Regardless, the outlet reported:
Spirit released a statement, saying they require face covering during the entire flight. The only exceptions are children under 2. Travelers unable to wear them for any reason, including medical, won't be able to fly Spirit.