ATLANTA - A Georgia family heading to New York said they were kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight because their 2-year-old son with autism wouldn't wear a mask.
"You really fought a battle with a 2-year-old," said Edwin Rios, the father.
The couple said they've flown with their son, Elias, before but have never encountered this problem. The family of five was leaving Atlanta for a trip to New York.
"They don't understand those types of things when they're little. It just makes it harder when it's a kid that has a disability," said Maria Rios, the mother.
According to an advocacy group called Autism Speaks, it can be difficult for some on the autism spectrum to wear a mask.
CDC guidelines state exemptions can be made for those with disabilities.
The couple said they explained this to the crew when they pre-boarded their flight.
"We told you we can't force him to wear a mask. We told you his disability. You see our tickets because we preboarded his disability because we explained that to him at the front counter," Edwin Rios said.
The couple said they even tried to show the staff Elias would not keep his mask on.
"I forced it on him, fighting with him to put the mask over him, he ripped it right off and threw it on the floor," he said.
The family was eventually asked to get off the plane, but Edwin Rios said he told them he would only do so if the family was able to get their checked bags back.
He said he knew they would have to go back home and the key to their house was in one of the bags.
FOX 5 reached out to Southwest Airlines for comment and the company said it regrets the inconvenience the family faced but federal law requires Southwest to ensure everyone over the age of two to wear a mask at all times.
When asked about exemptions for those with disabilities, the company sent a link with steps one must take in order to be exempt.
The family said they were not made aware of this at any time during their interaction.
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