March 18, 2022
The 10 pilots, who work for American Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines, said the CDC’s mask mandate is an “illegal and unconstitutional exercise of executive authority.”
The pilots argued that the CDC issued its public transportation mask order in February 2021 “without providing public notice or soliciting comment” and are asking the court to end the mandate.
Following the CDC order, the Transportation Security Administration issued a mask mandate in February 2021, which was set to expire in May 2021. The TSA has extended the mandate several times as the pandemic has continued, and last week, it extended the policy again until April 18.
Until then, the “CDC will work with government agencies to help inform a revised policy framework for when, and under what circumstances, masks should be required in the public transportation corridor,” the TSA said in a statement. “This revised framework will be based on the COVID-19 community levels, risk of new variants, national data, and the latest science.”
The pilots also said they’ve seen “up close and personal the chaos in the sky,” with thousands of reports of unruly passenger behavior since the mandate took effect in 2021.
So far this year, the Federal Aviation Administration has received 889 reports of unruly passengers, with 587 cases related to masks, according to the agency’s latest data. In 2021, the FAA received nearly 6,000 unruly passenger cases, with 4,290 being mask-related.
The pilots pointed to the mandate itself as the reason for the unruly behavior, claiming that the CDC “illegally failed to give passengers and employees our legally guaranteed option” to refuse a “medical device.” They said a face mask was a medical device.
The pilots also said that masks are uncomfortable, make it hard to breathe, lower oxygen in the blood and cause headaches, according to Newsy.
“You see a lot of frustration with the passengers as they come on board the plane,” Jeff Chandler, a Southwest pilot and one of the 10 plaintiffs, told the news outlet.
“It’s causing them to be very aggravated and lash out when otherwise they would just be normal and happy people getting on a plane to go do whatever it is they’re heading out to do,” he said.
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