PARKER, Colo. (CBS4) – Michelle and Erik Harvey had some anxiety as their April 1 flight from Denver to Texas approached. The couple from Parker knew federal law required any passengers over 2 years old to wear a mask, and they knew their 2½ year old son Jackson didn’t care much for masks.

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So they found a mask from the animated movie “Cars” that they thought he might like, and crossed their fingers. He wore the mask onto the Austin-bound plane at Denver International Airport but before takeoff he pulled it off and wouldn’t put it back on.

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“He grabbed his mask, threw it off and said ‘That’s it,'” said Erik Harvey.

Harvey said a Southwest Airlines flight attendant told them if their son wouldn’t keep the mask on, they would have to get off the plane.

“We walked off that plane in a daze,” said Erik.

A spokesman for Southwest said, “We regret the inconvenience this family experienced on their recent Southwest Airlines trip. However, federal law requires all customers 2 and over to wear a face mask while at the airport and onboard the aircraft.”

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“We were under the impression they were going to work with us because he is so young,” but Michelle Harvey said a flight attendant was adamant about her son complying with the rule and wouldn’t budge.

READ MORE: COVID In Colorado: Governor's Office Lifts Face Mask Mandate For Those Who Are Vaccinated

While she said they understand the mandate and understand the flight crew had a job to do, “It felt very unfair, it felt very wrong you’re kicking us off the flight.”

After getting off the plane, Erik Harvey posted a lengthy video account to his Facebook page. A former coworker, James Peck, who lives in Texas, happened to see the video and immediately offered to fly to Colorado in his twin-engine plane, pick up the Harvey family, deliver them to Texas then fly them back to Colorado a few days later.

Peck told CBS4 he knew he would be giving up a couple of days of his time and thousands of dollars in fuel costs, but he said he knew he could “turn their day around in a big way.”

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“I was blown away,” said Erik Harvey after touching down at Centennial Airport Thursday with Peck at the controls of his plane. “This guy is legit. Just an incredible guy.”

Southwest agreed to fully refund the Harveys’ flight costs.

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The Harveys say they hope their experience triggers more discussion about mask use and the science behind it. They say while they comply with mask regulations, they are skeptical of how various regulations are enforced and believe airlines are inconsistent in mask enforcement.

Brian Maass