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Long Beach Family With Autistic Teenage Son Forced Off Southwest Airlines Flight In St. Louis

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - When a Long Beach family with an autistic teenage son attempted to board a Southwest flight from St. Louis back home, they ran into a problem with the airline.

Trey, LaShaunda Jethro's 17-year-old, autistic son is nonverbal, and she said that flying with him is always challenge. Mask requirements have made the problem even more difficult.

"He will not keep a mask on his face. We have tried and tried. He just won't do it," Jethro told CBSLA.

However, she said they've never had an issue until now.

"We get to the door of the plane and the flight attendant is like, 'No. He can't come on. He's got to wear a mask,'" Jethro said.

Southwest does have mask exemptions for passengers with disabilities. The passenger or guardian has to fill out a form requesting an exemption and provide a doctor's note.

The note about Trey Autism Spectrum Disorder provided by Jethro to the airline. (CBSLA)

"I got my phone out, I pulled up the doctor's letter and she's like, 'Well, no. This has to come from corporate and you have to do this before you get on the plane," the Long Beach mom said.

After going back and forth with airline employees and calling a St. Louis television station, Jethro said they were allowed to board, but the situation still wasn't resolved.

"Here comes the manager again," Jethro said. "She's like, 'I need you to come with me.' For what? 'I need you to get off the plane.' I'm like, 'Okay,' and my husband's like, 'Well, do we all have to get off the plane?' She's like, 'No. You and your son can go, but she has to come off.'"

Southwest claims Jethro was asked to deplane for not wearing her mask at one point while talking with flight attendants. Jethro disputes that claim.

"I'm just still so in shock and just so amazed that this happened," Jethro said.

Ultimately, the Jethro family decided to get off the plane together, though their luggage remained checked on the flight. They have since rebooked a flight to Long Beach Monday.


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