(April 23) An April 16 incident on a Southwest Airlines flight shows the problems with mask fetishism, along with continuing evidence of the dying of common sense and the desperate need for COVID-related lawsuit protections.

I’m actually all for mask-wearing in enclosed places, but that’s not the issue. (Also, as the point here is not to bash Southwest or to litigate each specific aspect of the story as told by the passenger, but rather to make those broader points above, I have not asked Southwest for a point-by-point response to each element of that story.)

As relayed to me by passenger Heather Correia (and as partially recounted also by WPRI local news in Providence, Rhode Island,) she and her husband Victor, along with 14-year-old daughter Julianna, were traveling from their hometown of Lincoln, Rhode Island, to Tampa, where Heather’s parents live. Julianna, with severe cerebral palsy, has the intellectual capacity of a two-year-old, so wearing a mask is literally dangerous for her.

The family had flown the same route (on a different airline) at Thanksgiving when a doctor’s note sufficed for Julianna to have an exemption from the masking requirement on the flight. This time, the Correias made the reservations in February for the April 16 flight. Unbeknownst to them, the Office of Aviation Consumer Protection, within the Office of the General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Transportation, issued new guidance that took effect in mid-March, giving new leeway to airlines to impose their own policies to protect passengers against the coronavirus. Heather Correia contends that Southwest’s subsequent mask requirement violates the Air Carriers Access Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act — but even if it doesn’t violate those acts, she said the airline never proactively informed the family of the new rules.

Those rules are available but not at all easy to find (I tried) on Southwest’s website. They require (among other provisions) a specific “exemption letter” from the airline, to be secured at least seven days in advance of the flight, in order for anyone older than two years old to go maskless on a flight. A mere doctor’s note will not suffice, nor will the quite obvious reality that a child as disabled as Julianna is similarly situated to a two-year-old….

[Please keep reading, because the rest of the story will make your blood boil — plus, I have some suggestions with broader applications — here.]


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