A mother from Virginia beach took to social media claiming that a flight attendant with Southwest airlines told her to “glue” a mask to her crying, agitated toddler’s face.
Ali Cleek says she was on an Aug. 12 flight traveling from Orlando to Norfolk, Va., with her husband and their two kids, ages 4 and 2.
Her two-year-old, Drew, was fussy and crying and refused to keep her mask on, Cleek said in an interview with Fox News.
“Drew is a thumb sucker and her only way she biologically knows how to soothe herself is by sucking her thumb which is damn near impossible with a mask,” Cleek noted in a message posted to Instagram along with a picture of her crying daughter following the incident.
She went on to write that both she and her husband attempted to hold their daughter down while attempting to convince her to wear a mask as a pair of flight attendants were standing above them watching intently.
But it’s what happened next, Cleek noted, that had her “still shaking” later when she posted to Instagram.
“Lots of tears from Drew and I. And then it happened… the flight attendant told me two things,” she wrote.
The rattled, frustrated mother said the flight attendant’s options, neither of which were realistic, were: Either cut a hole in the mask so her daughter’s thumb would fit through it or “glue it to her face.”
Cleek went on to note that the flight attendant making the suggestions further indicated she had glue at hand.
Noting in her Instagram post that she’s a “rule follower” and she understands and agrees with the federal in-flight mask mandate, not wanting to come off as anti-mask, she suggested that there could be some middle ground.
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“I just know that regardless if it was sarcasm or not I was embarrassed and trying to follow the mandate as much as I could,” Cleek told Fox News. “My daughter is 2. We were doing everything we could to comply.”
“I don’t like being this person. Wearing a mask is the federal mandate… I get it. I respect it. But at some point we have to have human decency. Compassion,” she noted on Instagram. “I really don’t have words….. I’m still shaking. And pray to God no one has this kinda situation happen to them.”
In a statement to Fox News, a Southwest spokesperson seemed less than sympathetic but very sterile in their reply.
“The federal mask mandate for travelers has been in effect since February 2, 2021 and requires all passengers over the age of two to wear a mask at all times throughout the travel journey,” the emailed statement said, according to the news network.
“We [Southwest] appreciate the ongoing cooperation among our customers as we work, collectively, to follow the federal mandate and support the comfort and wellbeing of all who travel with us during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” it added.
“As a note, customers are reminded of the federal mask mandate multiple times prior to travel. Southwest provides reminders during the booking process on our website; in pre-trip emails sent to customers prior to departure; and as a part of a customer’s Health Declaration Form that must be acknowledged during the check-in process on the Southwest app, Southwest.com, Southwest’s mobile website, and airport kiosks,” the statement concluded.
Cleek told Fox News that after she reached out to Southwest about the incident, she get a boilerplate apology. “They said they would essentially talk to the flight crew,” she said.
She went on to say that she hopes airline bosses put out messaging to their flight crews about how to better handle similar situations moving forward.
“I know I never want another parent to be in tears on an airplane because their 2-year-old won’t wear a mask,” she said. “I really don’t want parents to feel like they have to hold down their child to put on a mask. I also don’t want to feel like I can’t travel with my kids by plane.”
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