A California family was only trying to return home from a trip to Missouri when they were met with obstacles.
LaShaunda Jethro, her husband and their 17-year-old son Trey were ready to board their flight from St. Louis back to Long Beach when a Southwest employee stopped them just shy of stepping onto the plane.
“The flight attendant is like ‘No, he can’t come on, he gotta wear a mask,’” said LaShaunda. She was baffled considering they had not run into any issues while traveling thus far. So, LaShaunda says she pulled out her phone to show the attendant the doctor’s letter detailing why Trey would be unable to wear a mask like the other passengers.
It wasn’t enough.
“She’s like, ‘Well no this has to come from corporate and you have to do this before you get on the plane,’” recalled LaShaunda. Up until that point LaShaunda says airport personnel had been helpful and more than willing to help her family.
“Everyone was so nice, and you know the ticket agent there even gave us preboarding because he looked at my son, and you know noticed [her son was special needs], and then a lady from TSA came and got us and she’s like, ‘No you come here we’re going to get him through’,” she said.
“He’s autistic, he has a hard time, so he’s non-verbal,” LaShaunda told CBS4-KMOV. “He will not keep a mask on his face, we have tried and tried, he just won’t do it.”
At her wits’ end as to how rectify the issue, LaShaunda says she even tried to provide the attendant with proof that every member of her family was vaccinated. Eventually, after continued remonstrating with the attendant and calling the news station, the family was allowed to board the flight, the TV station reported.
Finally, it seemed as though they would be able to make it home as planned. However, that was anything but reality. “Here comes the manager again and she’s like, ‘I need you to come with me,’” LaShaunda told the station, alleging that the manager then explained she would not be allowed to take flight because she allegedly removed her mask while talking to the attendant. While her husband and son were both allowed to remain on the flight, they ultimately joined LaShaunda back at the gate.
Southwest issued a statement of its own to KMOV addressing the situation:
“While boarding Flight 4238 this morning from St. Louis to Long Beach, there were concerns with documentation related to a Customer seeking a mask policy exemption for their child. Our Ground Operations Team and Flight Crew worked out a solution to allow the family to travel. However, once onboard, one of the members of the family was asked to deplane following a conversation with out Flight Attendants and for not complying with the federal mask mandate. Ultimately, our Flight Crews are responsible for the Safety, Security, and comfort of all Crew Members and Customers onboard. Once in the gate area, our St. Louis Team explained the situation and rebooked the Customers on a different flight.”
Outraged by the entire encounter, LaShaunda took to Facebook to share the ordeal with others. In part she wrote, “We were kicked off a Southwest flight in St. Louis this morning because our son Trey, who is severely Autistic would not wear a mask. We called the airline before we left California and were told to get a letter from his psychiatrist, which we did. We flew her from California with no problem.”
LaShaunda disputes the claim that she removed her mask; instead she believes her removal from the flight was in retaliation to her making her experience public via the news.
”I don’t know, I’m just still so in shock and still so amazed that this, that this happened, and it’s like what else can I do?” Though she and her family made it home the following day, LaShaunda says her fight is far from over.
“I will fight this fight all the way for my son and other family who is or has gone through this before,” she wrote on social. Her experience has been meet with countless words of encouragement.
“Gee, just inform the lady to put her mask on instead of removing her from the plane. That manager should be fired for abusing their position and misrepresenting the airline.”
“How about boycotting Southwest Airlines for a few months to teach them some manners.”
“I’m gobsmacked. I simply cannot imagine being treated this way! As the friend of a non-verbal neurotypical adult I’m so angry for you! Let’s hope Southwest makes good on this horrible occurrence.”