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Mask Exception - Asthma - Forced to apologize

New Arrival

Hello everyone, 

 

I had a situation today on my flight from Houston to Albany.  I'm still pretty upset about the whole thing and wanted to know your thoughts. 

 

TL;DR

 

As an asthmatic I have breathing issues after running to my gate.  Gate attendant forces me to wear mask and I privately, quietly to her hearing only say b@($* as I walk past her. She forces me to grovel and apologize before allowing me on flight. Southwest mask policy has exceptions for medical conditions and people having trouble breathing.

 

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Upon reading the mask policy on Southwest , //www.southwest.com/airline-cleanliness-social-distance/#mask-faq , which states "Exemptions to face coverings... Customers who have a disability or underlying medical condition that may prevent them from being able to wear a face covering. 

Anyone who has trouble breathing, is incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance." 

 

Based on Southwest policy I had 2 of the 3 possible exemptions from wearing a mask, as I attempted to board flight 1847 out of Baltimore, MD to Albany, NY at 12:15pm, on Sunday June 28th 2020. I have a history of Asthma (with an inhaler in my checked bag), but more importantly I was actively having trouble breathing. The B7 gate attendant, Martha, refused to allow me to board the flight without my mask, even after I explained to her my medical situation. Even though I could not fully breathe with the mask on, I was forced to put it on anyway to get on the flight. Had Martha listened to me and followed Southwest policy, I know without a doubt I would have been able to gain control over my breathing before it reached a point of needing an inhaler. Instead, Martha violated Southwest policy and took personal offense to my reaction and asserted her power to keep me off a flight I paid for. Not only were her actions in violation of Southwest policy, they threaten my health and caused an embarrassing scene at the gate as Martha (and her supervisor) made it very clear they were in charge and forced me to grovel and apologize. It was very clear that they didn't care about me or my health; only Martha's bruised ego.  

 

Full story 

At 11:45 am I check my boarding pass wondering when my flight was boarding and realized I was at the wrong gate. A7 instead of B7 and the boarding time was 11:45 am! I had removed my mask to eat my lunch from McDonald's and grabbed it as I was rushing and throwing my gear in my bag. Maskless, I start to run to B7 but I get winded and walk at a brisk pace. Using the walking treadmills every chance I get to get to the gate as quickly as possible.  

 

Once I arrive, the flight actually hadn't started boarding yet even though it was 11:50 am. I stop to catch my breath. My heart is pounding and my face is full of sweat. Eventually I sit to focus on my breathing and lowering my heart rate. I'm having a hard time controlling my breathing and my mind starts to get worried as I realize I'm in the beginning stages of having an asthma attack. 40 years of asthma and I know one of the biggest things I can do to control the situation is to remain calm, so that is my focus, but the air is so thick and heavy it's so hard to breathe.  

 

I try and put my mask on, only to take it off to breathe deeper. I try and put it on again a minute later and again have to remove it to breathe as now the cloth is soaked with sweat and impossible to breathe through. My boarding number is A34, so I know I'll be able to board soon and get a seat quickly. I need more air. The air conditioning in the terminal is minimal and with everyone preparing to board it feels thick.  

 

Now it's my turn to board. Martha at the gate blocks the scanner since I didn't have my soaked mask on. I explain the situation and that I have asthma, and she tells me to step aside. I explain, I really just need to get on the airplane so I can get air from the overhead air vent. She repeats I need to put on my mask. I comply and put on the mask. She removes her hand and I scan my boarding pass. I look at her with frustration and as I walk past her, once we were shoulder to shoulder with my mask on, I quietly say "b($&@" . Given the delay in the scanning of my boarding pass, there was no one in front of me and the person behind me was properly distance. Thus, no one heard me but Martha, which was my intent. My word was to Martha for Martha's lack of empathy for my medical situation.  

 

Upon hearing what I said, Martha promptly turns around and demand I stop. She tells me I'm not allowed to get on the airplane. She makes a scene, locks down the gate and goes into the tunnel stopping the entire boarding process. A supervisor eventually arrives to discuss the situation. I explain the same thing about my asthma and while the supervisor was apologetic to my medical situation she demanded I apologize sincerely to Martha for my word. I said I would if Martha would admit her lack of empathy or even acknowledgment of my medical situation.  

 

I approach Martha and offer a half baked apology explaining, I'm sorry for saying that considering you didn't care about my medical situation. She explains that asking me to step aside was her caring about my medical situation. I explain to her, that wasn't helpful since the air in the terminal was not helping my situation, only better air would help. The supervisor pulls me back aside saying my apology needs to be sincere. At this point I must stop talking because as I previously explained to the supervisor, talking makes my situation worse, I just need air... I'm desperate, not necessarily for the flight at this point, but more for the air vent. I approach Martha again, this time explaining that today was the first time since the death of my son on February 13th that I've cussed. I'm not proud of it and I asked God for forgiveness when she initially shut down boarding. I apologized again to her. This time it's sincere enough for me to be allowed through. Was I .. am I sorry for my word to her ... NO. I only ask for God's forgiveness and for him to make me stronger and less impacted by selfless people.  

 

Once aboard the flight I'm doing everything in my power to calm myself. I sit in the first available seat. Immediately turning on the vent under my seat and the middle seat. I breathe. I remove my mask and breathe more. Minutes of focused breathing and I am now forced to accept my asthma is at the point of requiring medical intervention. My asthma pump is in my checked bag. I have no choice but to get off the flight, but I need to ensure I can get my checked bag. I ring the call button and by this time I'm crying. The flight attendant comes up, truly concerned about my well-being. I explain I'm having an asthma attack and probably need to get off the flight. I ask her if I get off can I get my bag. The other 2 flight attendants approach and inquire what's happening all with concern. As they are discussing the situation of my checked bag, all of a sudden the passenger directly in front of me hands me an asthma pump. I'm so thankful, accept it and take 3 puffs. I thank him and tell him he's a blessing from God. The flight attendants are still very concerned and ask multiple times if I'm ok. I say yes, yes I'm much better, I just needed that medicine. The passenger agrees, understanding the exact feeling, giving the flight attendants assurance I'd be ok. The flight takes off and I sit in my seat WITHOUT my mask on with the vents still fully open blowing full blast. Eyes closed, trying to fight back my tears, I focus on calming myself and my breathing. It was about 12:35 PM when my breathing was finally under control enough for me to fully wear my mask. I wore it the rest of the flight without issues.  

 

Note, the 3 flight attendants never once asked me to put on my mask. Also, each one of the flight attendants spoke to me individually after I recovered to ask if I was ok. Prior to landing one of the flight attendants spoke with me at length about not checking my medication. I agreed explaining part of my medication is liquid and I was fearful of getting stopped by TSA for it, so that's why I checked it but will know better next time.  

 

I understand the importance of a mask and take covid very serious. I have not left my home without a mask since March. I actually don't leave my home except for essential medical reasons because, 1, I have asthma and 2, I'm trying to get pregnant. Getting covid would negativity impact both my life and my plans.  

 

The mask is intended to protect us all from Covid, but not at the risk of one truly not being able to breathe. Martha was heartless, arrogant and completely not the kind of Southwest employee that I've come to know and love. The amazing employees I've encountered on literally every flight is the reason Southwest made a lifetime customer out of me. I've seen gate attendants run to find passengers so they didn't miss their flight and high five each other after having all passengers accounted for. The flight attendants on the Baltimore flight were amazing and checked on me multiple times, not because of policy, but because they actually care. All in all Martha is not Southwest quality.  

 

My request, is an official apology from Martha for violating Southwest policy by forcing me to wear a mask when I informed her of my medical situation and current condition. An apology for the supervisor for also violating Southwest policy and forcing me to wear a mask.  

36 REPLIES 36
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Re: Mask Exception - Asthma - Forced to apologize

Top Contributor
Solution

Sorry to hear of your experience when boarding the flight in Baltimore. If you would like to share your feedback/complaint with southwest I would reach out to customer relations though one of these methods: Contact Customer Relations 

 

-Blake

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Re: Mask Exception - Asthma - Forced to apologize

Top Contributor

@wdrake98 wrote:

 

TL;DR

 

As an asthmatic I have breathing issues after running to my gate.  Gate attendant forces me to wear mask and I privately, quietly to her hearing only say b@($* as I walk past her. She forces me to grovel and apologize before allowing me on flight. Southwest mask policy has exceptions for medical conditions and people having trouble breathing.

 


Only read the TLDR version. Anyone who swears at an employee trying to do their job deserves nothing, no apology, nothing. Be grateful you were allowed to fly. 

--TheMiddleSeat

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Re: Mask Exception - Asthma - Forced to apologize

Top Contributor

I'm sorry that you had to go thru this.

 

If what you said is true, then this started because a Southwest employee violated a stated company policy, and probably federal law - the Air Carrier Access Act .

 

If I were you, I'd file a written complaint with the airline, being specific about dates, flight numbers. airports and employee names.

 

You should demand an apology from the airline and a voucher good for future travel - I'd start with a couple of hundred dollars.

 

 

 

https://community.southwest.com/t5/Knowledge-Base/Submitting-a-Suggestion-and-or-Complaint/ta-p/8724...

 

If Southwest fails to act honorably, you could also file a federal complaint with the Department of Transportation. That process requires that you first contact the airline in writing within 45 days of the incident.

 

airconsumer.dot.gov/escomplaint/ConsumerForm.cfm

 

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Re: Mask Exception - Asthma - Forced to apologize

Active Member

If I see you seated too close to me, not wearing a mask, expect me to say something not too kind. As a prominent surgeon recently said, a mask is only going to be an issue if you have advanced lung disease with very little capacity in which case you probably shouldn't be going out in public right now anyway. Not wearing a mask on a plane is selfish, despicable behavior. Asthma or no, it isn't going to negatively impact your health. It isn't comfortable for anyone. However, wearing a mask is part of being a decent human being.

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Re: Mask Exception - Asthma - Forced to apologize

Top Contributor

@bwallet wrote:

  Asthma or no, it isn't going to negatively impact your health. It isn't comfortable for anyone.  

 

I bet that neither you nor a member of your immediate family have asthma, because it is obvious that you have no idea what you are talking about.

 

It can be life threatening. Did you know that?

 

https://coreem.net/core/life-threatening-asthma/

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Re: Mask Exception - Asthma - Forced to apologize

Active Member

I’m fully aware that asthma can be life threatening. But, from what I have read (I’m not a physician), a mask isn’t going to cause an attack. 

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Re: Mask Exception - Asthma - Forced to apologize

Top Contributor

No it is obvious that you are not a physician.

 

As far as your second point. I am asthmatic. There are times that wearing a mask does cause me to have an attack

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Re: Mask Exception - Asthma - Forced to apologize

New Arrival

Yes you are correct.   A mask will not cause an attack.  The problem  is that this person was already in the midst of an attack.  Please know that not being able to breathe is uncomfortable and terrifying the last thing you want or need is to further restrict oxygen.

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Re: Mask Exception - Asthma - Forced to apologize

Top Contributor

Actually, a mask may cause an attack. I've had it happen 3 times since mid March.

 

All 3 times i put mask on before entering a retail establishment - asthma free at those times.

During the process of walking around symptoms would start and get worse over time. I then left the stores and took off my mask. I immediately started improving and accelerated that process by using my Proventil.