Mom removed from flight because her son refused to wear a mask speaks out: 'Very traumatizing'

·4 min read

When traveling home to New Hampshire last month, Rachel Starr Davis’s son went into meltdown mode. For a two-year-old, that’s just a part of daily life. But her child’s tantrum was about wearing a mask, which meant the outburst escalated from an ordinary display of emotion to a major ordeal.

According to the 34-year-old single mother, she had her hands full with her bags as she was boarding an American Airlines plane, and her son in a sling on her chest. “I didn't have a mask handy for him, so I had to get one out,” she tells Yahoo Life. A flight attendant approached while this was happening who, Davis says, was “immediately aggressive,” and that they quickly called for a supervisor to come.

“I would say it was probably 10 minutes before the supervisor came on, and then another 10 to 15 (minutes) of trying to get him to keep the mask on, and me hysterically crying and shaking as I hold up a piece of cloth to cover his nose and mouth,” Davis recalls of the incident.

The frustrated mother reports her child was screaming and pushing the mask away the entire time — which isn’t entirely surprising. Masks can be difficult for younger children (especially kids ages 2 and under) to wear or get used to wearing. Davis’ son turned 2 back in June, and she herself said her son hasn’t needed to wear masks as he hasn’t been out in public save for an occasional trip to the market when she wears him in a sling close to her chest. And while the American Academy of Pediatrics states that masks can be worn safely by children ages 2 and up, that doesn’t account for the willfulness of children. The World Health Organization, meanwhile recommends masks be worn by children over the age of 6.

Davis has faced lots of criticism since going public with her story on Instagram.

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“Wearing masks is the policy. Don’t blame the FA just because you couldn’t parent you 2 year old properly and tell him to keep his mask on. I didn’t do stuff like that at 2,” said user @astragrl.

“I’m sorry but these flight attendants are doing their jobs. Flying during a pandemic shouldn’t be done unless absolutely necessary,” added user @autumngmee, though they did agree that age two might be too young to keep a mask on a child.

Many also asked why Davis was on her fourth flight since the pandemic — which she clarified, stating she was on the last leg of a flight that required a layover. Davis, who did wear a mask for her flights and can be seen wearing masks in various Instagram posts while working as a stylist, says she did not have any trouble with the previous 3 flights and only experienced this on the final leg of their journey home.

To the flight attendant that asked Davis to mask-up her son and then called a supervisor, Davis wished to say, “Why did you have to handle it with no compassion? No human decency? No common sense? And why has every other flight crew that we've been on this trip said nothing about it?”

In a statement to Yahoo Life, American Airlines clarifies its policy:

“To ensure the safety of our customers and team, American Airlines requires all persons 2 years and older to wear an appropriate face covering throughout the entirety of their journey. Policies are enforced and approved face coverings are made available at key points throughout the customer journey.

American, like other U.S. airlines, began requiring customers to wear a face covering while on board aircraft beginning May 11. We have since strengthened our policy to require face coverings be worn at airports and on board, and announced in June that we may deny future travel for customers who refuse to wear a face covering for the duration of this requirement.”

Davis was eventually put on a different flight — on which no one pushed to have her young son wear a mask. She says the pilot on that flight also “apologized profusely,” but for Davis, it’s too little, too late.

“I will not put my son again in that situation. That was very traumatizing for him. I felt horrible guilt.”

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.