Medora Clai Reading Southwest passenger kicked off for removing mask to drink water claims in $10 million filed lawsuit. Women states she told airliner of medical condition necessitating her constantly having to drink water.
Has one airliner gone over-board? A Florida woman has filed a lawsuit against Southwest Airlines after saying she was kicked off her flight because she kept removing her face mask to drink water, new court papers show.
Medora Clai Reading, 68, said that when she bought the ticket for the Jan. 7, 2021, flight to Palm Beach, Fla., from Washington, DC, she notified the booking agent she is medically required to drink water constantly, according to a $10 million lawsuit filed in Brooklyn federal court.
Filed paper work alleges Reading telling Southwest she suffers from ‘a heart condition, severe hypoglycemia, claustrophobia and is subject to fainting spells (particularly when her breathing is labored and/or she is placed in particularly anxiety-producing situations)’.
Reading claims her disabilities are ‘triggered by wearing a face covering’ and told the agent she would need a medical accommodation for the flight.
The employee told her that although there was no exemption from the masking requirement, she could board the plane first for an ‘early bird’ fee, sit in the front of the cabin and remove her mask to eat and drink.
‘We don’t care,’
But when she arrived at the airport, the gate supervisor told her that Southwest ‘does not care’ about her disability and that no accommodation would be allowed, according to the suit.
Reading said she decided to buy a drink when she felt her blood sugar dropping, but that a gate attendant told her to discard it before boarding — even though passengers are allowed to have beverages purchased after the security check, the suit states.
After taking her seat, she asked a flight attendant for some water.
‘Why, do you need to take medication?’ the crew member allegedly asked according to a report via the nypost.
Reading, who was feeling faint, told her that she suffers from a medical condition that requires her to drink and offered to show her a medical exemption card, according to the filing.
‘We don’t care,’ the flight attendant allegedly retorted before handing the woman the water — but adding: ‘Your face covering must remain in place at all times,’ according to the suit.
When Reading slipped her mask below her chin to take a sip, the flight attendant ‘harshly reprimanded her,’ according to the suit.
‘I am drinking the water you gave me,’
‘I am drinking the water you gave me,’ Reading says she told the employee, who ‘responded in a harsh tone saying, ‘No, you may take a sip of water, then you are to put your mask back in place, then you may take another sip of water, and you put your mask back in place,’’ according to the suit.
Meanwhile, an announcement was made that passengers had to keep their masks on ‘except when eating or drinking’ — but the flight attendant was undeterred and ‘continued to hover angrily over’ the woman.
Reading claims that when she again took a sip due to her deteriorating condition, the flight attendant berated her and shouted, ‘You were talking!’
Kids, you know where this is going …
The situation escalated until the gate attendant came aboard, spoke to the crew member and told the woman, ‘Get your belongings. You are being removed from this flight,’ the suit states.
As Reading and her companion were leaving, she noticed that the pilot, who was not wearing a mask, ‘laughed mockingly’ as she got off the plane, the suit states.
‘hostile and abusive’
The gate supervisor then instructed Reading to sign a document stating that she was removed from the flight because of noncompliance, but Reading says she refused.
The woman said that several police officers rushed over to help her stand as she broke into tears. When she told them what happened, they said ‘that this was ‘happening far too often’ and ‘it is usually Southwest.’’
Reading claims she ‘suffered hyperventilation, anxiety that resulted in a panic attack, loss of consciousness, and continues to suffer sleeplessness, anxiety, and deep sadness that may be characterized as depression.’
She is seeking damages of $10 million and a ‘judgment declaring that Southwest Airlines and all airlines must grant passengers reasonable accommodations pursuant to the Air Carrier Access Act when the passenger asserts that he or she is unable to wear a face covering for medical reasons.’
Kristina Heuser, a lawyer for Reading, told Reuters that a ‘planeload full of witnesses’ saw the encounter, and that some may have videotaped it.
She said Southwest’s ‘hostile and abusive’ conduct reflected a ‘COVID insanity‘ that should not override federal laws protecting passengers with medical disabilities.
Southwest declined to comment on the lawsuit.
In an email the carrier stated that the airliner has a “federal mask mandate requiring that a qualifying mask be worn throughout travel. We communicate the requirement directly with traveling passengers multiple times ahead of their check-in.
‘We share in onboard announcements that these coverings may be briefly lowered for a sip of a beverage or to take a bite of a snack, a practice that has become commonplace and familiar to millions of air travelers every week across the globe,’ the email added according to the nypost.
The Federal Aviation Administration said airline crews in 2021 submitted 5,981 reports of unruly passengers, including 4,290 incidents related to masks.