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.
I’m at a complete loss of words. The eyes of a mama-bear who just bawled her eyes out as she was forced off an airplane because her 2 year old wouldn’t keep his mask on. I tried repeatedly, begged him, bribed him, pleaded with him, did everything I could while he was screaming and crying as I tried to hold him and put the mask on, feeling my absolute lowest of lows as a mother. Before I even sat in my seat, flight attendant Terry on American Airlines flight 5595 from Charlotte, NC to Manchester, NH on September 17th, approached me and asked how old my son is, and demanded according to their policy he wear a mask. I told her this is our fourth American Airlines flight this week, and he has never been asked to wear a mask. She informed me he (my overtired two year old son) would need to comply with their company policy or we would be asked to leave the aircraft. As I tried to put down my things and get a mask out, I heard Terry on the phone saying “yea it’s clear there is going to be a problem and we will need you to come down”. The nastiest smug look on her face. I’ll save you the rest of the horror that happened on the plane, as I continued trying to get him to wear the mask, bawling my eyes out and hyperventilating behind my own suffocating mask. Desperate to get home after the worst week. He would have been asleep before we even pushed back if they had just been humans. The pilot had the final say, Lyon wears the mask or they will escort us off the plane. Rather than get themselves any bad press by escorting a crying mom and two year old off the plane, they forced everyone to deplane, and wouldn’t let us back on the flight home. Apparently before we got off the plane everyone who left before us lit up the crew in the gate area. The Captain walking right by me as I screamed my head off in my absolute worst moment. They moved us to a flight tonight, on the same airline who’s company policy kicked us off the last flight, because my two year old son wouldn’t keep a mask securely over his nose and mouth at all times. This is the world we live in? This is not a mask debate. This is a ‘be a god damned human’ debate. I will NEVER fly AA again.
A post shared by Rachel Starr Davis (@rachelstarrdavis) on Sep 17, 2020 at 1:50pm PDT
“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.”
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