NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — There was chaos on board a JetBlue flight from Cancun to Newark over a 2-year-old with special needs who wouldn’t wear his mask.
CBS2’s Jessica Moore spoke with the boy’s mother, who says the airline’s treatment left her feeling angry and humiliated.
After two years working as a teacher through the pandemic, East Orange mother Jennifer Minsky, her husband and two young sons took a dream vacation to Cancun.
“This was a really big deal to go away on an airplane to a Caribbean destination,” she said.
“And you knew about the mask policy, right? So you had prepared the boys, ‘this is what we’re going to have to do’?” Moore asked.
“Yeah. Ezra wears a mask at school all the time with no issues,” Minsky said.
After their return flight to Newark was delayed for three days, the Minskys finally boarded a plane home, where their travel nightmare continued.
Video shows a rotating crew of flight attendants standing over Minsky as she desperately tries to get 2-year-old Ezra to wear his mask.
“At that point, I was just really nervous that they were actually going to kick us off the plane. They could clearly see that Ezra was upset, and the culmination of people being over him, he has sensory issues, so people that he didn’t know were over on top of our family, throwing masks in our face,” Minsky said.
Ezra is on the autism spectrum, a condition about which Minsky says she informed JetBlue. She also brought a doctor’s letter for the flight crew.
“They wouldn’t have anything to do with it,” she said.
After 30 minutes of chaos over Ezra’s mask and Minsky’s desperation to get home growing, she says she gave Ezra a sleeping supplement.
“I can’t believe I even did that. We carry the melatonin for my older son. Ezra’s not even old enough for melatonin. He in fact did fall asleep and we put the mask on him,” Minsky said.
“Once you’re on the plane, all bets are off,” CBS News travel expert Peter Greenberg said.
Greenberg says managing special needs on a flight comes down to pre-flight communication and overly so.
“The fact that she talked to JetBlue on the phone, she didn’t confirm it in an email. The fact that she talked to the gate agent, she didn’t confirm that the gate agent transferred that conversation to the flight crew. It’s a bad game of telephone at that point. You need to be communicating and you need to confirm that communication because once you’re on that plane and the door’s closed, your rights, or the understanding of your rights, no longer rests with you,” he said.
JetBlue confirms it offered Minsky a credit as compensation for her experience but refused CBS2’s request for an interview to explain more about what happened.
Minsky says she has no plans to use the airline again.
JetBlue tells CBS2 the family should have applied for a mask exemption before the flight, adding, “With no exemption applied for beforehand, multiple crewmembers worked together to adjust seating assignments so this family could sit together and worked to eventually gain compliance and avoid further disruption to their travel plans.”