A group of pilots from JetBlue, American Airlines, and Southwest have filed a lawsuit against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services after the mask mandate for airports and airlines was extended.
“By mandating masks for all American travelers and employees in the transportation sector, the defendants have acted without statutory authorization or following the rulemaking process required by the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”). This mandate also raises serious constitutional concerns. Because of the FTMM [Federal Transportation Mask Mandate], numerous state, local, and regional transportation and airport authorities are told to enforce a federal mandate that is in direct conflict with the laws and policies of all 50 states that prohibit mask mandates or do not require face coverings,” the pilots alleged.
The pilots go on to say that the CDC “ignored countless scientific and medical studies and articles showing that face masks are totally ineffective in reducing coronavirus spread but are harmful to human health in at least 68 ways.” The pilots cited an article from Lucas Wall, an opponent of the federal mask mandate who has filed several lawsuits against the CDC and airlines regarding the policy.
“Wearing a mask before and during flight causes us numerous medical deficiencies,” the pilots said in their lawsuit. “Extended wearing of a mask, which has become a part of routine life, has led to the emergence of ‘mask fatigue.’ Mask fatigue is defined as the lack of energy that accompanies, and/or follows prolonged wearing of a mask.”
The pilots also claimed that the mask mandate has caused “chaos in the sky” with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reporting thousands of instances of “unruly” passenger behavior since the mask mandate went into effect on February 1, 2021. The pilots noted that nearly all of the reports were related to masks, adding that 2021 was the “worst year on record for buffoonish behavior on planes.”
Business Insider reported that the FAA noted there were 4,290 mask-related incidents in 2021, which made up more than 75% of reports regarding unruly passengers. “Since January of last year, the agency proposed fines of more than $682,000 against unruly passengers,” the outlet reported.
The FTMM applies to public transportation, not just airlines, but that is where it is most felt and discussed. The mask mandate was set to expire earlier this month, but on March 10 was extended through at least April 18.
The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) said that the extension “will be based on the COVID-19 community levels, risk of new variants, national data, and the latest science.”
The pilots requested the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia vacate the mask mandate and remove all signs requiring masks from airports and other transportation hubs.