By LUCAS WALL
Frontier Airlines, on Saturday morning, refused to allow a family of four to board a flight from Orlando to Hartford, Connecticut because their autistic 4-year-old son can’t cover his face.
This happened despite the fact Michael Seklecki Jr. has a doctor’s note saying he’s exempt from mask mandates, which was submitted to Frontier in advance of the flight in addition to other paperwork.
The Seklecki family must fly often to New England for Michael Jr.’s specialized medical care.
On Saturday, parents Michael Seklecki Sr. and Samantha Grabowski and their younger son, Noah, were booked on a Frontier flight to Hartford, for Michael Jr.’s appointment Monday afternoon at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Earlier this week, Michael Jr. and Michael Sr. joined a group of 13 flyers from nine other states and the District of Columbia who filed six lawsuits charging the Transportation Security Administration with exceeding its legal authority by continuing to extend the Federal Transportation Mask Mandate.
The Sekleckis are among four Florida petitioners in the case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta.
The incident – captured on video and posted to YouTube – began shortly before 6 a.m. today when the family approached the boarding gate for Frontier Flight 1206. Michael Sr. told a female Frontier supervisor that he had a doctor’s note exempting Michael Jr. from wearing a mask due to Autism Spectrum Disorder.
“If you did not go ahead and provide the documents to Frontier Airlines, unfortunately, we cannot go ahead and” allow the exemption, the agent said. Michael Sr. showed her an e-mail from Frontier acknowledging he did send in the physician’s note.
Frontier’s Orlando station manager, who identified himself as Ken, said he did not receive authorization from the airline’s headquarters for the exemption.
“Until that is approved, he can’t fly,” Ken said. “He has to wear a mask or he can’t fly Frontier. The physician’s documentation does not override the corporate approval. Until we have it in hand, on our computer, and on e-mail, we can’t just” approve the mask exemption.
Michael Sr. noted if his son were forced to muzzle himself, he could have a medical emergency during the flight. Ken then said he wouldn’t allow the family to board if Michael Jr. could have an episode in flight, then changed his tune.
“He can board with a mask on,” Ken said. “If you don’t have the exemption that’s required and the [COVID-19] testing that’s required, he cannot board without wearing a mask.”
Michael Sr. then asked his son, “Can you wear your mask.” Michael Jr. shook his head no.
Ken then became rude and condescending, telling Michael Sr.: “Sir, the way you are approaching it is not going to help. … You’re asking a child can he wear it. He’s going to tell you no.”
Michael Jr. is heard on the video interjecting, “We’re going to grammie’s house!”
Ken then goes on to say: “If you, him, anybody … doesn’t wear the mask, you will be refused travel. The way you are coming about it is the totally wrong approach because we do not have the approval from corporate. He has to wear it.”
Michael Sr. then said to his son, “You need to wear a mask,” and Michael Jr. answered, “I don’t want that. No.”
Ken told the family: “Trust me, we all hate the mask, though we got to wear it. There’s no exceptions unless you get that exemption from corporate.”
But Frontier’s mask policy violates the Air Carrier Access Act, a federal law prohibiting airlines from discriminating against passengers with medical conditions. Frontier and six other airlines are being sued by 13 disabled flyers in the U.S. District Court in Orlando for its unlawful mask rules.
The incident ends with Ken telling his female colleague “Offload, offload,” removing the family from the flight. But he then strangely claims “We are not denying your child a flight.”
As of early this evening, the family is still at MCO trying to find another airline that will fly them to New England so Michael Jr. can make his doctor’s appointment Monday. The family has been unable to find a specialist in Florida to treat his rare conditions.
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