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Airlines Move to Dismiss Face Mask Lawsuit

A flyer waits at an airport wearing a face mask.

A flyer waits at an airport wearing a face mask.

A Washington man’s move to stop the national face mask mandate may soon come to an end. Four airlines have come together to submit a motion to dismiss the legal action based on the lack of right of private action for the claims.

Attorneys representing four major airlines are asking a Florida federal court to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to overturn the face mask requirement for boarding aircraft. Filed August 23, 2021 with the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Florida, Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue and Southwest Airlines are asking the court to stop the legal action on the grounds that private citizens cannot use lawsuits to enforce the Air Carrier Access Act.

“Private rights of action to enforce federal law must be created by Congress”

In June 2021, Washington, D.C. based flyer Lucas Wall announced his intention to sue the airlines and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, claiming the national face covering mandate was unconstitutional. Wall was attempting to board a flight between Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale when he was denied entry, later declaring his lawsuit would challenge the federal authority to “regulate public health matters solely within a state.”

In the airline’s response, attorneys claim that the lawsuit holds no standing on two points. First, although Congress passed the Air Carrier Access Act to prohibit discrimination based on disability, the lawyers say that lawmakers did not provide an avenue for individuals to seek their own solutions from the law. Instead, the federal government has the sole power to pursue claims.

In addition, the lawyers write private citizens do not have the power to sue airlines under federal transportation law. Citing 49 U.S.C. § 44702 – the same law for certifying aircraft and airlines – their argument states private citizens can’t take legal action without first pursuing a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration or the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“Missing from the Complaint is any allegation that Plaintiff himself filed a complaint with the DOT against any of the Defendants which the DOT then failed to pursue,” the motion reads. “Had Plaintiff filed an administrative complaint with the DOT and the DOT failed to act on his complaint, he might have been able to file a challenge to the DOT inaction pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 46110 (in the appropriate appellate court).”

The lawsuit remains in front of the court and has not yet been dismissed.

Federal Face Mask Mandate Remains Through January 2022

While both sides present their arguments in court, it has not stopped the extension of the federal face mask mandate. Anyone who wishes to travel on a commercial aircraft must wear a face covering through at least January 2022.

MiscMel70 September 10, 2021

How about not fly if you don't like the rules? You can drive, walk, hitchhike, ride share, etc. Just like you don't have to spend your dollars at establishments that require you to wear shirts and shoes for service or won't allow you to smoke in or near their entranceway. Legality and legalese aside as I'm a layperson...I too hate wearing a mask. It's just awful. I mean...I can't express how much it sucks. But there is a highly contagious disease floating around this rock we're riding through the void. Flight attendants LITERALLY stand inches from 1000's of people every day. As much as I hate masks, I'm thankful for those guys and will do whatever I can to keep them safe. Are masks foolproof? Of course not. But I'll do whatever I can to help them. I if I have a cold, I don't go visit a newborn. When I had the flu, I had to pay someone to check on my mom who was in the middle of chemo. When I'm sick I stay home from work. All of us do, right? Why is this different now? YOU may not care if you catch it but what about others? And their newborn at home? And their elderly relative at home? And their immuno compromised spouse at home? All politicians can go kick rocks. Ask real doctors who work in hospitals if you're still unsure (not those kind you find on FB lol). It's a reason why over 95% of practicing physicians in the US are vaccinated. I've worked in healthcare for over 30 years. The only time I've seen physicians this shell shocked is during the early days of the war when I was mobilized.

dliesse September 8, 2021

The reason the lawsuit should be "laughed out of court" is because it's targeting the wrong defendents. The airlines don't make the rules, they just follow them. If the plaintiff wants the rule overturned he needs to take it up with the Congress, not with the airlines.

PaulMSN September 8, 2021

azmojo, you're conflating regulations and laws. If Congress chooses to grant an entity the power to create regulations, that agency has the right to create them, and it makes no one involved a "dictator" -- there is no need to destroy the English language just to to hyperbolize.

mc4bbs September 8, 2021

I feel that anyone who causes a ruckus over mask mandates should be p;laced on the NO FLY LIST for life. We do not need those sort in the air!

arabiamark September 4, 2021

Mask mandates should be laughed out of our lives.