A 75 year old woman with terminal lung disease was heading to Seattle on Alaska Airlines – but was kicked off of her flight at the Fairbanks, Alaska airport over face mask rules.
She wore an N95 mask and a face shield during boarding. But once she settled into her seat she replaced those with a respirator helmet. That’s when an Alaska Airlines employee approached her and told her she couldn’t wear the helmet, despite her lung fibrosis.
They offered her a low grade mask to wear, not realizing that she had an N95. An argument ensued over whether the helmet was safer than the blue mask. Here’s what she looked like on board:
A supervisor came on board and demanded she got off the plane to continue the discussion. She says by that point she’d “removed her helmet and put the N95 and visor back on” which should have made her eligible to fly, but the airline determined she was a risk for the flight. (She insists that the N95 mask didn’t have a valve so she was complying with mask rules at this point.)
Ferguson says a couple of Alaska Airlines workers grabbed her carry-on bags and escorted her off the airplane. She says she was met at the gate by an airport police officer, who forcefully escorted her to the ticket counter. She says an Alaska Airlines ticket agent offered to book another flight in two hours, if she calmed down. But she refused, and left the airport.
She claims she was bruised as she dragged off the plane. Police carried her luggage to the terminal entrance. Authorities claim she was “uncooperative and disruptive.” Alaska Airlines refunded her ticket.
Alaska, like several other carriers, has a policy against masks with ventilation ports. Those protect the wearer, but doesn’t protect other passengers from the wearer. American Airlines has told me that it’s fine to wear a mask with valve if you wear a cloth mask over it.
While U.S. airlines generally require passengers to wear face masks, it’s not uncommon to also see policies against too much personal protective equipment. For instance American Airlines bans passengers from wearing face or body tents or pods, personal air purifiers and ozone generators.
Body Pod in Delta First Class, Credit: Under The Weather
Rather than banning extra protective gear I wonder if an airline might promote safety and generate ancillary revenue at the same time if they sold these items themselves. Then again, like a movie theater, they might still wish to ban customers from bringing their own in order to prevent lower cost competition for sales. I’m old enough to remember when it was against airline rules to use your own headphones to watch the inflight movie…