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Explorer C

(I wrote this the day after the event. Sick to my stomach —  I’ve been avoiding seeing it again but here I am submitting it) 


Monday, April 19th, Dallas (Love Field) Airport, Texas. 

Flight 736, Gate 14, which should have been a departure time of 11:30am, from Dallas to Tampa.


What happened to us on your Southwest Airlines flight, forever changed us, our view of your brand and organization, and how you LEAD your “professionals” who represent it. Truly, unfathomable. 


After I submit this letter through your Southwest Airlines website, I will be posting on social media platforms, to get back in touch with the people on our flight, who so graciously and selflessly, stopped my husband as he exited the gate when we departed your horrific flight, and told us they stand WITH US — these fellow passengers (every one of them that approached us both on and off the flight) told us that if your flight attendant and pilot would have kicked us off of that flight, they would have stood up and exited with us. Standing up for what is right, what is moral, and leading with KINDNESS is what our people, our society, and our COUNTRY needs, especially after such a hard and trying year our entire world just endured. Shame on you all, how you lead, how you train, who you hire, and how your flight attendant represented you — ultimately showing her true colors, as well as yours, through her.  


So I will begin,


On Friday, April 16th, we flew from our home airport in Tampa, Florida, to Dallas, Texas, for a very special family wedding. “We” as in me, Dajana St.Hilaire, my husband Maxwell St.Hilaire, our daughter Ava St.Hilaire, and my mama Marica Jankovic. Besides turbulence from bad weather, which no one can control, this flight was lovely. All the staff was so accommodating, kind, and extra sweet to our 2 year old baby girl. I wanted to begin with this flight, because we hadn’t flown with our daughter since our flight to Cabo, when she was 8 months old. This April 16th flight, marked our first flight with Ava, since the pandemic rocked our world. Following the news, reading up on the cdc guidelines, reading up on the airport and airline websites, and with simply being a PARENT, and knowing/researching developmental progress, we knew a two-year-old child did not (and could not) wear a mask. Let me also mention, since so many unfortunate instances in this country have been about reactions on perceptions (judging and assuming, especially in an important role as the leader in the sky, is just setting your flight crew up for failure) on which stance people are taking, politically, with the vaccines, with masks should never ever be on the forefront of your mind, as a leader in the sky, you should view every situation case by case basis. I had to mention this, to say we are NOT against masks — and that is EXACTLY why this terrible situation happened to us, because your flight attendant, on our April 19th return flight home, ASSUMED we were there to challenge her “authority” with being another one of those people who just complain and want to go against the rules, by standing against masks. Which, again, is SO UNFORTUNATE for your brand/organization, and how you all train your “leaders” to lead. We are not against masks, and have done our part to be law-abiding citizens. We are educated, we are successful, we are loving and kind individuals, and are always doing things to help people/our community in need. We are not these monsters she made us feel like. Before I start with that horrible return flight on April 19th, it was important for me to state that we are not against masks and it’s important for me to state that our daughter did not wear a mask on our April 16th flight from Tampa to Dallas (yes, also, Southwest Airlines). Like I said, after all research I did, and trying to “train” this precious two-year-old baby girl of ours to wear the masks a few times without success, it was very apparent that the pandemic cannot place rules or regulations on such a young and fragile state of life. They have no idea what is going on and why we are placing cloth over their mouth and/or nose. If anything, this should be considered torture at a fragile age of two-years-young. 


Walking with our daughter through the Tampa airport for our flight to Dallas, not one person said anything to us about her not wearing a mask (just as our research stated) — Not security, not the pilot that stopped us to give her a sticker of “wings” to match his, not any Southwest Airlines crew when we checked her carseat in at the baggage and ticketing counter, no one at the gate, not the pilot or the flight crew on our Southwest Flight, who kept saying our daughter was so sweet and well behaved. NO ONE. 


Now — the flight that makes my heart sink and my stomach queasy, even a day after — We can NOT believe we were treated like this. UNFATHOMABLE and UNACCEPTABLE. PERIOD. 


Monday, April 19th, we go through Dallas airport with our baby girl, spend some extra time with the kind security professionals so they can test her liquids she drinks for our flight. After group A was called, we were called for family boarding so we go through your gate, and step onto the plane in this order: 

Me holding our Ava in my arms, my mama behind me, and my husband next to her/behind her (so they are right there and can hear/see everything). Your flight attendant (I keep saying this because we all looked for a name tag, but she wasn’t wearing one, but I don’t ever recall them wearing one so I am assuming this is normal protocol), greeted us with a smile. Waves to my daughter, I say “Say hi baby” and she waves back to the blonde female flight attendant, our daughter smiles and waves to her. The cockpit door is wide open and as we are about to turn right to walk into the aisle of the flight, goodness, how everything turned in a split-second from this moment (almost like a bipolar episode). The flight attendant’s face changed instantly. From a smile from our two-year-old daughter waving back to her, to a straight face, as she demands, “WHERE IS HER MASK?!” I, still with smile on my face but a little confused, said back, “she’s only two and can’t wear one”, my husband behind me says “she doesn’t need one she is two”. She goes to grab a piece of paper that is right next to her and then puts the piece of paper down before she even looked at it and says to us, “if she is already two, she needs to wear a mask, NOW”. I then said, “ma’am she hasn’t worn one on the way here with ya’ll and we did so much research, at two she can’t be forced to wear one.” Then she states, “two and up she has to.” And this next sentence of mine, unbelievably enraged this woman, (to the point that I thought to myself, wow, and she is who is representing this airline front and center?) 

I said to her, “I have a mask for her but she won’t wear it.” Now. Read that again. And, again. This sentence that I spoke to the woman, is why I made it a point to write about perception in the beginning. This woman, IMMEDIATELY assumed I was one of those “no we won’t follow the rules or regulations of leadership just because” mentality having individuals. IMMEDIATELY she assumed my words meant, I have one for her but nope, because you said so, she won’t wear it. UNBELIEVABLE. If she would have looked into my eyes, heard my tone, accessed our body language, she would have been able to realize that her assumption is her assumption. I literally meant “I have one in a bag for her, but she won’t wear it.” As in — she is two years old and we tried at home but she doesn’t know any better and won’t wear it. THIS is why it is important to hire and train your “leaders in the sky” to be humane, to listen, to access, and to take every situation case by case basis (especially during our very first pandemic in our lifetime, which comes with so much uncertainty and confusion, and very little study.) We are all different, and assuming immediately that I am a fighter instead of a lover, that I am a disturbance to her atmosphere and that we want to rebel with this precious blessing in our arms, is so disgusting beyond comprehension. She IMMEDIATELY turned to the cockpit which had the door wide open as I stated above, and yelled, “oh you won’t? CALL SECURITY NOW” 


We were SO SHOCKED. I looked at her and said, “what?” followed by, “ma’am, I didn’t say I wasn’t going to have her wear it, I said she won’t as in she’s only two and she won’t put or keep it on.” She then again asked the pilot to call for security and my husband said, “just go sit down Dajana” hoping that we were not hearing what we were hearing, as we couldn’t believe this was handled the way it was. So cold. So aggressive. We go to sit down and with pain in my voice, I tell the flight attendant in the back what she just said/did to us in the front, and this lady actually apologized for her and said, “I’m so sorry this happened to you, I didn’t know she said that, I’m sorry she spoke to you like that.” We find seats and sit down, and an African American gentleman (didn’t get his name either), who we assumed is the security she just demanded for a two year old, came down the aisle with the flight attendant from the front of the plane. She was speed walking ahead of him to the back, he followed. He then came back, and told the little girl sitting in front of us, to put her mask on. She was eating, so her guardians were confused looking at the gentleman, but told her to put her mask on. He then marched back to the back of the plane, where I assume she told him no not that girl, but us, which he probably missed and was confused himself when he saw how itty bitty our daughter was. Our daughter looked at him and smiled as he stared at us, and told us, aggressively, that she had to put on the mask. I went to tell him the story, but my husband cut me off with phone in hand. He had the pulled up CDC website ready on his phone, and showed him the section where it speaks on two year olds. It states that two year olds “should” wear masks, and then it goes on about how they really don’t know and can’t be forced. The very next paragraphs talks about disabilities and how adults who have the mind of children do not need to and cannot be forced to wear a mask. Any sane and logical person would understand that a two year old, who has literally just learned how to walk less than a year ago, doesn’t understand the concept of you trying to put a muzzle on them. It was actually very traumatic and devastating to watch my child’s eyes as the gentleman said we would need to force her to wear one. She at first thought it was a joke/game, and laughed, saying “oh no mommy”, and then the more we tried, the more scared and upset she got. Beginning to cry, not understanding, looking into my eyes and feeling my heart race. It was so upsetting. My husband then looked at the security gentleman and asked if he had children, as he was watching our child upset and not grasp the concept of being muzzled, he said yes I have five. My husband then said, “Sir, then you have to understand.” I then looked at him and said, please look me in the eyes and hear my side of the story. I told him that the moment that woman saw us, and realized that our two year old wasn’t wearing a mask, she lost it. I told her that I don’t know what is going on with her or what happened in her day today but that I was so shocked as to how she spoke to us and handled this as a professional. And I will keep on keeping on saying our “leader in the sky.” This is how you choose to lead? Heartbreaking. My husband then looked at the gentleman and said, “what did we do wrong?, how are we supposed to get home? We’re not going on vacation, we are trying to get home. We flew with you all on Friday and not one person, including two different airports TSA staff, didn’t say one thing to us about a mask on her, besides kind words. What would you like us to do sir? You are wasting everyone’s time on here. We are not trouble makers, either kick us off for our two year old not wearing a mask, or stop wasting everyone’s time on here and let us go home. People have connecting flights, what are we doing here?” 

We knew people had connecting flights to Arizona and elsewhere as that was stated over the intercom. We couldn’t believe how much time was wasted. How much unprofessionalism was taking place. The gentleman then went on to disappear and came back about 20 minuets later. Tapping my husband on the shoulder and telling him that the pilot and the flight attendant want us off the plane and he is doing his best to explain our side to management. I was MIND BLOWN. A Pilot, a CAPTAIN of an aircraft, wanted to kick us off a flight without ever hearing our side? Without meeting us or even seeing us. Without knowing that we did nothing wrong. Everyone around us in the seats was telling us how disturbing this was. How they are flabbergasted at how this was handled over a precious innocent two year old. I still can get sick on command just thinking about this. The gentleman disappeared again. To then return to the most shocking and unbelievable part. He came down the aisle with another gentleman. He didn’t have a name tag either, so I will say he was a white male. This gentleman was looking at us with what you could tell sadness in his eyes, couldn’t believe what he was hearing and seeing, as our daughter is so little. Still, the entire plane packed, now about 20 minutes after our scheduled departure. They stand there over us and suggest ways for her to wear the mask. I tried everything. At this point my husband says, “Come on, what do you want us to do?” The African America gentleman says to us “they will taxi the plane, and if she isn’t wearing a mask, we will taxi it back to the gate and kick you all off.” The shock. The gasps from the other passengers. This is when my husband, still sitting down, raised his voice. Because at this point you are not just treating us like dirt, you are treating every single passenger like their time, dying loved ones, sweet celebrations, money, and effort doesn’t matter. My husband said, “You mean to tell us all, you will taxi the plane, attempting to go to runway, and your flight attendants will leave their secured seats, to stare at our two year old, and if she isn’t wearing a mask (which you see she can’t keep on) will taxi us back and kick us off? Are you all serious? Kick us off now, you are wasting everyone’s time. Unbelievable. Why are you doing this? Kick us off then!” We were so shocked with this encounter. On top of everything — the SHOCK OF SHOCK, the white male gentleman behind the security guard, TAKES HIS FANCY CARTOON-LIKE MASK OFF GIVES IT TO ME TO GIVE TO MY DAUGHTER AND SAYS, “Maybe she will put that one on since it looks cool” I had no idea I even grabbed his mask out of his hand (THAT HE WAS WEARING OVER HIS MOUTH) because I was shaking so much over the whole situation. My mama (Marica) looked at me and said you are NOT putting the mask over her mouth that he had on his. I still had no idea what was happening I said real quick, “oh I’ll just double mask it” I then snapped out of it and was like, wait what? This is your mask! 


Let me explain to you all how **bleep**TY you all handled this. HE TOOK HIS MASK OFF HIS FACE (he was probably also flustered and shaky that he wanted to help) AND STOOD ON A FULL FLIGHT, IN THE AISLE OVER US, MASK-LESS!!!!! To give his USED mask to put on my two year old. Have y’all honestly lost your minds? A grown man can be mask-less but our two year old, who hasn’t even developed the mental maturity and logical traits yet to understand, can’t? IS THIS REAL LIFE!! 

I honestly don’t even know how you all or this staff is operating right now. The disturbance and unimaginable horror we faced. 


Before the two walked away, I said, “I come from a Public Relations background. I am writing letters on this either way. I am so shocked with what you all are doing here and how you are handling this situation”


When I said this, they left the plane. 


The last walk down the aisle after my above statement on writing letters, the flight attendant who did this to us came rushing down the aisle with the security guard in tow. She told my husband to follow her to the back of the flight to talk to her. The security guard then completely changed his demeanor and said, “she feels bad, she wants to apologize how she handled things” 


My husband later told us that she took him in the back and asked him to calm down, he said he was calm and so shocked and then he said, “cut the small talk, are you kicking us off the plane or not” she then followed that up like a teenage talking to their sibling or like a person who has little man syndrome, gets a little authority and playing with everyones wellbeing, “you want me to kick you off the plane?” He looked at her and said, “ma’am do you have kids?” She then said, “no I can’t have any” 

(He is better than me because what she put us through, help me Jesus I would have said, “makes sense” — because for her to THINK that a two year old should be forced to wear a mask when they simply don’t understand, made sense that she didn’t have children.) he then said to her, “That is unfortunate and I’m really sorry to hear that but what do you want us to do?” She then went on about how we have to try as hard as possible to have it on her if she’s not eating or drinking. She left, the security guard left, people started to tap us on our shoulder and say how badly they feel and can’t believe this. An elderly woman behind me started cursing with anger on how this was handled and for the entire flight she would reach over to caress my child’s sweet arms or shoulder. Every single time a flight attendant came by on this flight I was so nervous, which is so not like me, trying to cover her face, trying to put a blanket over us trying three different masks to wear. I was sick.  


What y’all did and how you treated not only us, but our baby girl and the other passengers on your flight — unacceptable. And DISGUSTING. 


The sweet flight attendant that worked the back, came by for drink service, I had been holding my daughter as she slept a bit…looking down at her precious little face, I just started to hysterically bawl. I was crying so badly, that I couldn’t stop. I was looking at her innocence and couldn’t believe the world I am raising her in. The people we are walking amongst. The lady came by to ask me what I wanted to drink, she said, “sweetheart what would you like?” I looked up with tears flowing down uncontrollably and said, “nothing”. I saw her eyes and saw that her heart must of dropped with sadness, looking at a 32 year old mama, holding her baby, trying to protect her and raise her with our good God in her heart and all things lovely — only to be helpless and hopeless in crippling situations like this. We are so heartbroken more than anything. As we landed, my eyes swollen from tears, my husband looked at me and said, “please don’t say anything to her in the front, we are better than them” And I said I won’t. The only thing I would have told her would have been, “you need Jesus.”


To our surprise, the flight attendant and the pilot departed the plane before any passengers. When we came to the front, everyone was gone. How convenient. Shame on y’all. 


We walked out of the gate, my husband walked towards the bathroom, when a gentleman stopped him. Telling him he was waiting on us to depart. Telling him the horror he went through, witnessing what happened to us. Stating that he had just watched a video, a week prior, of Southwest doing this to another little girl. His words made us get chills all over our bodies and made me cry once again as he said, “I already filed a complaint online on behalf of you all, and if you all would have gotten kicked off the flight, I would have gotten up right with you.” The goodness and selflessness of his heart, I’ll never forget. 


We make it to the shuttle to take us to the main airport/baggage claim, and in the shuttle, a lady and gentleman approached us and their words, “that was unbelievable, we promised if you all were getting kicked off, we were coming with you.” I just gasped as my throat choked up as I said, thank you. 


These sweet people were going to compromise their trips, time, money, and schedules to stand up for what is RIGHT. What is humane. To stand with strangers, to make them not feel alone. To show unity in justice matters. Kindness will always matter and Love will always win. 


I can’t believe how much time has passed and you all still didn’t reach out to apologize. I know the flight attendant knew who we were because she said her paper stated our Ava Rein was two, which we told her. Shame on you all on so many different levels. Shame on you for being monsters in the sky and not being leaders. Shame on you for not being human first and for treating this monster of a pandemic like something two year olds can make worse than it already is. Shame on you if you come back to state that these are your rules and regulations, when obviously they are not since we flew to Dallas with your airline and your so called rules and regulations are not set across the board, since you now know she didn’t wear a mask to Dallas. Set a standard, let people know what it is, so they avoid having anything to do with you all. Be a respectable brand, not a disgraceful/confusing/unclear/unstable one.

Either way, whatever approach you take on responding, if you even ever do, to our letter — Shame on you. I pray for you, for your children and loved ones and may your children or grandchildren never be treated like Southwest treated our family, but most importantly the single most important blessing of our lives — our Ava Rein. 


Shame on you + god bless you all. 



Maxwell, Dajana, Ava Rein St.Hilaire + the best grandma on the planet, Marica Jankovic




Aviator A

I'm sorry to hear of your experience. Since this is a customer to customer forum I would reach out to Southwest directly Contact Customer Relations 


I'm glad to hear you weren't kicked off but yes the FEDERAL mask mandate is ANYONE 2 and older is to wear a mask unless actively eating or drinking and the mask is to be put on between sips and bites. Southwest has a procedure for those who want to request a mask exemption but those passengers would need to travel on a flight that is less than 50% full and a process must be followed to get the exemption. 




Aviator A



As noted above, masks are currently required for those age 2 and above by federal regulation. This information is communicated by Southwest on it's website, and in flight notification emails. Flight attendants are required to enforce this. You can request an exemption for a person with a disability ahead of your flights, the process is detailed here.


As a general suggestion: If you're contacting customer service (for any company, not just airlines) your best odds for receiving a positive outcome are when you keep your message short and factual. Customer service representative receive literally hundreds of requests daily, so the quicker they can discern the issue the better. Hope this helps.




Aviator A

@chgoflyer wrote:



As noted above, masks are currently required for those age 2 and above by federal regulation.  


As chgoflyer said, you are dealing with a federal regulation. THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS - except for certain medical conditions..


The moral of the story for those travelling with youngsters is to start use of the mask at home. Get the child used to the process. That way it won't be a surprise at the airport.


Maybe you can turn it into some kind of game with rewards, and have your child actually look forward to putting on a mask -- just a thought. 


edit add, Batman, the Lone Ranger, the Green Hornet were all mask wearers. Maybe you could have your child play the role of one of them. It might make it fun for a child to to wear a mask.


Adventurer B

Make sure you get the flight attendants' names. Sue them personally. Here in America, it is illegal to practice medicine without a license. Because face masks are MEDICAL DEVICES, they cannot be required on-board because neither pilots nor flight attendants are licensed to practice medicine. 


It's about time that flight attendants learn their place. Their job is to SERVE the customer...not harass us. 


The customer is always right. If they don't like it, don't work in customer service. As simple as that. And please...if you want people to side with you, don't refer to police officers as security guards. 


Security guards have no authority to remove anyone from the flight. Only airport police do. 


Aviator A

@PetertheProphet wrote:

Make sure you get the flight attendants' names. Sue them personally. Here in America, it is illegal to practice medicine without a license. Because face masks are MEDICAL DEVICES, they cannot be required on-board because neither pilots nor flight attendants are licensed to practice medicine. 


It's about time that flight attendants learn their place. Their job is to SERVE the customer...not harass us. 


The customer is always right. If they don't like it, don't work in customer service. As simple as that.


I hate to feed a troll, but -- obviously -- this is 100% incorrect.


Adventurer B

If it was incorrect, you would have provided a logical rebuttal...which I don't see. And calling people "trolls" is ad hominem, not a logical refutation. 


In any case, what I stated is correct. "Just doing my job" didn't work for the SS soldiers during World War II, and it won't work for flight attendants either. 


Why? Because we all have to follow the law. It's part of living in a civilized society. 


Aviator A

Oh great, the guy that said all people should break the law and ignore Hawaii's quarantine laws is back with more horrible "information".


Masks are medical devices? Lol, anti-maskers will try anything. 




Aviator C


Aviator C

I'm on the fence with this one, as I'm sure that all the complaints about the difficulty of 2-year-olds wearing masks are true.  However, I'm sure there have been thousands of 2 to 3ish kids flying already, yet we have only seen a handful of these complaints.  It does appear the masses, 90 percent or more seem to be able to comply?  I don't know.   First, I got a headache after the first paragraph of that complaint...(way TMO)   And the fact they tried and knew that the child wasn't going to comply before they got on the flight makes me know they should have understood, that there was potential for confrontation, yet they chose to fly anyway.  Since I haven't tried flying with a 2-3 year old I have no idea of what the outcome would be for the child if I did?  What I do know, is children are smarter than we think.  In discussing this with one of my friends who flew with her under 2 years old, they see everyone with a mask and always reach for one to put it on to be like everyone else.  They seem to understand that is the norm of what they see every day, not somebody covering their mouth on the random.