An elderly Alaska woman claims she was “emotionally violated” after being removed from an Alaska Airlines flight from Fairbanks to Seattle over a face mask dispute on October 10.
According to KUAC, 75-year-old Judy Ferguson was traveling to see her doctor about treatment for her pulmonary fibrosis when she was approached by an Alaska employee who informed her that her respirator helmet—similar to what firefighters wear—wasn’t in compliance with the airline’s face mask policy.
“The agent told me to take off my respirator helmet,” she said. “I told him I’m 75, I have lung fibrosis, which is terminal. I’m going to critical appointments in Seattle, at the University of Washington Medical Center. And I will not remove my ventilator helmet.”
She was then asked to disembark the aircraft. “The lead gate agent came and she said ‘I will not talk to you on this airplane. You have to get off the airplane and talk to me.’ So she said six times ‘Get off the plane. That’s the only way that I will talk to you.’ And she never did talk to me,” Ferguson told KUAC.
She later swapped the helmet for an N95 mask and visor but was unsuccessful in convincing employees that her mask didn’t have an exhalation vent and complied with the airline’s policy. Ferguson was eventually escorted off of the plane and led to the ticket counter to be rebooked on a later flight but refused and left the airport instead.
“I was emotionally violated,” she added. “I had tremendous stress. A bruise on my arm. And it was beyond belief!” However, a Transportation Department representative told KUAC that Ferguson was being uncooperative and disruptive.
Although she said that the airline violated her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Ferguson decided against pursuing a case against Alaska after speaking with a lawyer.
Under Alaska’s current policy, all passengers age 2 and older are required to wear face coverings “made from cloth or other barrier material that prevents the discharge and release of respiratory droplets from a person’s nose or mouth.” Unacceptable coverings include those with direct exhaust valves, those that don’t cover the nose and mouth and face shields worn without masks.
The airline adds that there are no exceptions and that customers who are unwilling or unable to wear an appropriate mask for any reason will not be permitted to travel.
A rep for Alaska confirmed that she was refunded the cost of her ticket. The carrier has also launched an internal investigation into the incident, which comes just one week after a fight broke out on an Allegiant Air flight after a passenger allegedly refused to wear a face mask.