Nine flight attendants have filed suit against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), over the federal transportation mask mandate.
The 61-page complaint (pdf), filed March 24 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, argues that, while obstructing their normal breathing harms their health, the requirement to enforce the mandate on travelers also endangers aviation safety as tens of thousands of passengers refuse to comply.
The nine plaintiffs work for Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines. It’s the first legal challenge to the transportation mask mandate filed by flight attendants and the second filed by airline workers. As The Epoch Times reported, 10 pilots filed a similar lawsuit on March 15 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
As with the pilots, the flight attendants accuse the CDC and HHS of seven violations of the law and the Constitution and ask U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger to vacate the mandate and to permanently enjoin the two agencies from ever issuing it again.
“As flight attendants for major airlines, we have seen up close and personal the chaos in the sky created by the” federal transportation mask mandate (FTMM), the complaint contends, referring to the federal transportation mask mandate, “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.”
In 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported there were 5,981 unruly passenger incidents. Of those, 4,290 involved masks. Of the 961 reports of unruly passengers already reported for the first three months of 2022, the FAA said, 635 were related to face masks.
Amid those alarming statistics, the flight attendants contend the CDC and HHS continue to ignore how the mask mandate recklessly endangers aviation safety and security by causing numerous disruptions in the cabin—a fact cited by the CEOs of several U.S. airlines in a March 23 letter to President Joe Biden calling to abolish the mass transit mask mandate.
The lead plaintiff in the flight attendants’ lawsuit is Alaina Trocano of Fort Myers, Florida.
“We’ve been playing the game with the masks for two years,” Trocano told The Epoch Times. “Some of us got furloughed during COVID. I was one of the furloughees. Many have taken leave. One of the flight attendants in our lawsuit quit over the mandate.”
Trocano recalled how, during a flight in December 2021, she began having difficulty breathing. She experienced light-headedness, headaches, and shortness of breath. When she took off her mask to get some air, she said a passenger immediately began harassing her.
“Even after I told him I couldn’t breathe, he continued to harass me about it,” she said.
Aside from the health complications flight attendants suffer from forced masking for hours on end, Trocano said the work environment itself is “filled with hostility between passengers and crewmembers.” She said confrontations between passengers have become such a common occurrence that “you just wonder which flight is going to be the one where something really bad happens.”
“The really sad thing is it takes away from our duties,” she said. “We’re not supposed to be the mask police. I’m supposed to be making sure people are safely wearing their seat belt in case there is turbulence, not worrying about which passengers are going to get into a fight 30,000 feet in the air. That’s just not a good place to have conflict.
“There’s so much confusion about the legality of this. That creates conflict as well.”
Trocano said she has seen fellow flight attendants writing up passengers simply because they “have an attitude” about wearing masks. Other flight attendants file reports on fellow crew members, taking pictures when they catch anyone without their mask properly in place, even while traveling to their hotel from the airport.
“You’re working 12-plus hours a day, having to wear the mask in flight and in the airport, and if you dare to take a break to get something to eat or just to breathe, you worry about getting harassed, and then to have that on top of it, you can’t even be comfortable going to your hotel,” she said. “It’s just a generalized environment of hostility.”
The flight attendants’ case is at least the 19th lawsuit challenging the legality of the federal mass transportation mask mandate.