Top

JetBlue, American Airlines, and Southwest pilots are suing the CDC over the federal mask mandate, saying it ignores scientific studies showing it is ‘ineffective’

Get the Insider App
A personalized feed, summary mode, and ad-free experience.

Download the app

  • Pilots at major US airlines, including JetBlue and American, are suing the CDC over mask rules.
  • The suit claims the federal mask mandate ignores scientific studies showing it is “ineffective.”
  • Claimants also alleged it posed a risk to the health of pilots, “imperiling aviation safety.”

A group of pilots who work for major US airlines is suing the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over the federal transportation mask mandate.

The 10 pilots work for commercial airlines including JetBlue, American Airlines, and Southwest Airlines, according to the lawsuit.

In the filing, the pilots alleged that the CDC acted “without providing public notice or soliciting comment.”

The mask mandate applies to public transportation, including commercial aircraft. It was extended on March 10 for 30 days, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The rule will stay in effect through April 18, at the earliest.

“This revised framework will be based on the COVID-19 community levels, risk of new variants, national data, and the latest science,” the TSA said in a statement.

The pilots have alleged that the federal policy “ignored countless scientific and medical studies and articles showing that face masks are totally ineffective in reducing coronavirus spread but are harmful to human health in at least 68 ways.”

They further alleged that they had “serious concerns about the safety implications” of the mask mandate in relation to unruly passenger behavior incidents caused by mask policies.

The lawsuit stated: “As pilots for major airlines, we have seen up close and personal the chaos in the sky created by the FTMM (Federal Transportation Mask Mandate), with thousands of reports to the Federal Aviation Administration of ‘unruly’ passenger behavior since the FTMM took effect Feb. 1, 2021.”

The pilots alleged that nearly all of the “chaos” related to masks and that 2021 was the “worst year on record for buffoonish behavior on planes.”

According to the FAA, there were 4,290 mask-related incidents reported in 2021. And more than 75% of the FAA’s unruly incidents in 2021 arose from people vehemently refusing to wear masks. Since January last year, the agency proposed fines of more than $682,000 against unruly passengers.

The suit also claims the CDC ignores that the mask mandate “impairs pilots’ health” and subsequently imperils aviation safety.

“Wearing a mask before and during flight causes us numerous medical deficiencies,” the suit alleged. “Extended wearing of a mask, which has become a part of routine life, has led to the emergence of ‘mask fatigue.’ Mask fatigue is defined as the lack of energy that accompanies, and/or follows prolonged wearing of a mask.”

The pilots claimed that, as a result, they were morally and legally obligated to act.

They requested that the court vacate the mask requirement, remove all signs informing passengers of the requirement to wear a mask from all airports, transportation hubs, and other locations worldwide, as well as compensate all legal costs and fees.

JetBlue, American Airlines, and Southwest did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment made outside of normal working hours.