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Two Is Too Young for Face Masks on Planes

TravelPulse logo TravelPulse 9/23/2020 Rich Thomaselli
a child looking at the camera: A toddler on a plane © Maria Argutinskaya A toddler on a plane

Stand up.

Don’t yank the ornaments on the Christmas tree.

Lie down.

Smile for a photo.

Sit still.

Stop throwing Cheerios from the tray of the high-chair onto the floor.

Don’t pull the dog’s tail.

I am the proud father of a college junior and a high school junior, and those are just a few of the many things I tried to get my boys to do – tried unsuccessfully, I might add – when they were two years old. So why are we expecting parents to be able to force a two-year-olds to wear a face mask for several hours on a plane?

More importantly, why are airlines expecting, and demanding, that we do so?

I am not an anti-masker. I’m not fond of wearing one to be sure, and, in general, I don’t like being told what to do. But I am not in the same group as the “my civil liberties are being violated!” crowd. What I understand, that maybe some don’t, is that grocery stores, restaurants, retail outlets and, yes, airplanes are all considered private property that give you tacit permission to be in their place of business – as long as you follow their rules. So I am fine with airlines demanding passengers wear a face mask. I believe that air travel has become significantly safer in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, but I also believe that wearing face masks helps mitigate the spread of the virus.

But two-year-olds?

We’ve had too many instances lately of whole families being kicked off flights because children have had trouble keeping a mask on. It happened last month, when a woman returning from Orlando to her home in New York with her six children was asked to leave a JetBlue plane when her youngest didn’t keep a face covering on.

More recently, a woman traveling on American Airlines last week was booted from a flight when her two-year-old son would not wear a mask. Rachel Davis said she “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.”

Davis was leaving Florida to return home to New Hampshire. In both instances, fellow passengers came to the defense of the families.

As they should have.

"It was very cold and cruel," passenger Taylor Cournoyer told ABC News of the incident with Davis on American. "This wasn't an issue of a grown adult not complying out of spite because they don't agree with masks – this was a child. And it was not a bad, irresponsible mom either. She was crying and trying to keep the mask on and asking the flight attendants for help and advice on what to do."

Cournoyer captured a video of Davis at the gate area pleading with crew and other passengers, saying "I don't know what you want me to do to keep the mask on him. What do you want me to do – duct tape his face? He's 2 years old, he doesn't get it!"

Is that not heartbreaking enough?

Look, we get it. The Centers for Disease Control recommended it. And it’s now policy on all major airlines that any child age two and over must wear a mask in order to fly. American made that abundantly clear when it released a statement saying, "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 travel journey. Policies are enforced and approved face coverings are made available at key points throughout the customer journey. We’ve reached out to the family to learn more about their recent travel experience and to address their concerns."

Really? What more is there to learn? A woman boarded a flight with her two-year-old. Two-year-old had trouble wearing a face mask. Mother tried everything she could short of taping it on his face. There. You’re caught up. End of story.

Have we really become that callous? Again, I am all for following the rules, but clearly the rules need to be revised. They don’t call them the ‘Terrible Twos’ for nothing, and I highly doubt that among the seasoned, intelligent crew members on American and JetBlue that there wasn’t one parent among them. And I highly doubt the management team at any airline, much less the CDC, is without parents in decision-making positions who haven’t been in the midst of an epic meltdown in a restaurant or tantrum at a mall.

And on a plane.

Revise the rule. A couple of years bump in minimum age standards is sufficient.

In other words, let’s recapture some of our humanity here, folks.

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