A Florida woman is suing Southwest Airlines for $10 million after she was removed from one of the airline’s flights for not complying with mask rules, The Independent reported.
Medora Clai Reading, 68, alleges that she was wrongly taken off her flight on Jan. 7, 2021, for not wearing a mask, saying that she only removed her mask to periodically drink water. She was on a flight from Washington, D.C., to West Palm Beach, Florida. It is not clear where she was when removed.
In a case filed on Wednesday, Reading said that she needed to remain hydrated for medical reasons, including a heart condition and low blood sugar, but a “hostile” flight attendant demanded that she keep her mask on, The Independent reported.
She also claims she offered to provide the crew member with her medical-exemption card but was told, “We don’t care.” She says she had to leave the plane while an unmasked pilot laughed at her.
After disembarking, she alleges that airport police who helped her said that these evictions from flights were “happening far too often,” and “it is usually Southwest.”
Her attorney, Kristina Heuser, claims a “planeload full of witnesses” saw the incident, with some videoing it.
The lawyer accused Southwest of “hostile and abusive” conduct and “COVID insanity.”
Data from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reveals that 5,981 unruly passenger incidents were reported by airlines in 2021, with 4,290 of those related to mask-wearing rules, The Independent reported.
FAA graphics show that incident numbers climbed between January and February 2021, when its “zero tolerance policy” was announced, and have since fluctuated but remained fairly high.
A Southwest Airlines spokesperson said, “We have no immediate comment to offer on this now-pending litigation, as we make an initial review of the complaint.”
Reading's lawsuit alleges violations of the federal Air Carrier Access Act and various civil rights laws, Reuters reported.
The flight attendant, two gate officials, and the pilot, none of whom is identified by name, are also defendants.
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