COVID-19 sign in front of plane
COVID-19 sign in front of planeiStock

A group of 13 flyers from seven states, the District of Columbia, and Israel filed a civil complaint last week against seven major airlines charging them with conspiring to ban tens of millions of Americans with medical condition who can’t tolerate wearing face coverings from using the nation’s aviation system.

The suit is the first class-action lawsuit in the US challenging airlines’ mask mandates.

“Plaintiffs are a group of disabled (and one non-disabled) airline passengers who have been restricted from flying by the defendants for more than a year because of their enforcement of mask mandates that violate numerous provisions of federal and international laws, plus breach their contracts and violate tort law and the Constitution,” according to the 227-page amended complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Orlando that charges the airlines and their executives with 30 offenses.

“The one plaintiff who does not have a disability represents a class of flyers who strongly object to forced masking as a violation of their rights under federal law and the contracts of carriage.”

Plaintiffs demand a permanent injunction stopping the airlines from requiring face coverings and damages of $100,000 per person from each airline and $10,000 per person from airline.

Lucas Wall, 44, of Washington, D.C., initiated the lawsuit June 14 after Southwest Airlines refused to grant him a medical mask exemption for a June 2nd flight from Orlando to Fort Lauderdale. Wall like millions of others, can’t wear a mask because he suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which gives him panic attacks and hyperventilation if his sources of oxygen are obstructed.

Wall selected additional plaintiffs to join the case this week to represent other would-be travelers who have been compelled to wear masks to travel by air since May 2020.

The group includes Uriel ben-Mordechai and his wife Adi, an Israeli-American couple residing in Jerusalem who regularly fly back and forth to California to visit family; a New York City businessman who has had to drive more than 25,000 miles during the pandemic because airlines won’t let him fly; a Missouri man who was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight for not masking; and a family from Maine who couldn’t use Southwest tickets because of the carrier’s ban on medical exemptions.

“The evidence plaintiffs present in this Amended Complaint – supported by 525 exhibits attached hereto – is indisputable that all defendants since Summer 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic have illegally discriminated against millions of flyers with disabilities in refusing to grant any mask exemptions and/or requiring such an onerous exemption process that travelers with a medical condition that makes it impossible for them to cover their face are essentially banned from using the nation’s commercial aviation system,” according to the complaint.

“The defendants have also illegally failed to give all passengers – whether disabled or not – the legally guaranteed option under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) to refuse to use a medical device (face mask) not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or allowed only under an Emergency Use Authorization.”