(ABC4) – Mask mandates have started to be lifted all across the country. They continue to be lifted in state and municipal buildings but not on airplanes which has led to a lawsuit against the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
A group of nine flight attendants from six states filed suit on March 24 against the CDC to strike down the Federal Transportation Mask Mandate, arguing forcing them to obstruct their normal breathing harms their health and being required to enforce the mandate endangers aviation safety as tens of thousands of passengers refuse to comply.
The nine plaintiffs work for Allegiant, American, Delta, Frontier, Southwest, and United. It’s the first legal challenge to the FTMM filed by flight attendants and the second by airline workers. Ten pilots filed a similar lawsuit last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Flight attendants filed the 61-page complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado since plaintiff Victoria Vasenden of Southwest Airlines is based at Denver International Airport and several others often work flights in and out of DEN.
“Masks impair our health and reduce flight safety,” said Vasenden of Reno, Nevada. “We are in planes and airports up to 18 hours a day with zero chance of fresh air. Physicians don’t wear masks that long. That’s assault on the brain, organs, and tissues of the human body. Yet, we are expected to ensure all aspects of the flight remain safe, when masks clearly diminish our capacities.”
Like the pilots, the flight attendants charge CDC and its parent agency, the Department of Health & Human Services, with seven violations of the law and Constitution. The flight attendants ask Senior District Judge Marcia Krieger to vacate the mandate and permanently enjoin the two agencies from ever issuing it again.
The nine flight attendants express concern that CDC and HHS ignore that the mask mandate recklessly endangers aviation safety and security by causing numerous disruptions in the cabin – a fact most major U.S. airlines cited in a March 23 letter to President Biden calling for abolition of the FTMM. The International Air Transport Association has also urged Biden to get rid of the mask mandate as has the union representing Southwest Airlines’ flight attendants.
Tammy Gipp of Las Vegas, Nevada, is on medical leave from Frontier Airlines because she can’t tolerate wearing a mask.
“We have serious health and safety concerns regarding the FTMM, none of which were studied by the CDC or HHS prior to rushing the policy into effect,” she said. “There have been no studies conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration regarding how having a plane full of oxygen-deprived crew and passengers reduces emergency response time, particularly should a sudden decompression of the aircraft occur.”
Gipp also noted that the mask requirement causes “heated arguments and physical altercations often not only between passengers and crew members, but also among crew members ourselves with varying opinions, which poses more safety threats.”
The flight attendants’ case is at least the 19th lawsuit attacking the legality of the FTMM but the first by flight attendants who are commandeered by the federal government to enforce it.
“As flight attendants for major airlines, we have seen up close and personal the chaos in the sky created by the FTMM, with thousands of reports to the Federal Aviation Administration of ‘unruly’ passenger behavior since the FTMM took effect Feb. 1, 2021 – nearly all of which have been caused by incidents related to masks,” according to their complaint.
Lead plaintiff Alaina Trocano of Fort Myers, Florida, a flight attendant for American Airlines, said the Biden Administration’s fourth extension of the FTMM, announced March 10 and effective until April 18 despite CDC’s updated guidance that Americans in most counties should not wear masks, forced flight crews to take legal action.
“We’re supposed to ensure safety yet there are many of us who do not feel safe ourselves,” she said, referring to all the skirmishes on board created by passengers and flight attendants battling over face coverings. “Mask or be harassed. That’s not ensuring safety. That’s enabling hostility. Air travel should be the last place for conflict.”
Read more and download the complaint and case docket at www.lucas.travel.