An Alaska man suing Alaska Airlines over its discriminatory mask policy asked the U.S. District Court here to restrain the carrier from refusing him transportation because he was eating on a recent flight without donning a mask.
Peter Menage of Palmer, Alaska, works in the remote North Slope oilfields along the Arctic Ocean in far northern Alaska. He must fly every three weeks from Anchorage to Prudhoe Bay for his job.
Menage has a doctor’s note exempting him from wearing a face covering, but Alaska has refused to grant him an exception in violation of several federal laws, the motion for a temporary restraining order states.
Menage asks for an emergency court order by Wednesday because he’s scheduled to fly home Thursday on Alaska Airlines, the only airline serving the route. Without court action, he would be stranded in Prudhoe Bay (served by the airport in Deadhorse) and would likely lose his job since the only way of commuting is on the airline.
“On Nov. 25, 2021, I boarded Alaska Flight 55 from Anchorage to Deadhorse to come to work,” Menage wrote. “Once we reached cruising altitude and the flight attendants started serving drinks, I got out my own food and beverage. I proceeded to eat and drink. A flight attendant came and demanded I put a mask back on. I had food in my hand and was chewing when she addressed me. After finishing chewing my food, I told her I was eating. She demanded again that I put a mask on. I repeated that I am eating. She persisted, demanding I don a mask while eating and drinking, which is impossible. It is also not the company policy or required by the Federal Transportation Mask Mandate.”
Alaska is one of seven airlines being sued by 13 disabled Americans in a class-action lawsuit regarding their mask policies that discriminate against passengers with medical conditions who can’t tolerate having their breathing obstructed.
The airline sent Menage letters Nov. 25 and Dec. 1 telling him he’s been banned from future flights because he allegedly violated the mask mandate. But Menage maintains all he did was remove his mask to eat, an activity specifically permitted by the FTMM.
“If this Court does not restrain Alaska Airlines from refusing to transport me, the odds of losing my job are very high,” according to court papers. “This would constitute irreparable harm for myself and my family.”
Due to his respiratory issues, Menage can’t tolerate wearing a face mask. Covering his nose and mouth prevents proper breathing including faintness, hyperventilation, anxiety, and more, he declares.
Menage argues that retaliating against him for suing Alaska for discrimination is outlawed by the Rehabilitation Act and Air Carrier Access Act, federal laws that protect the disabled from discrimination.
“Alaska has also received several billion dollars of federal funding during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure airline services continue,” according the motion. “As a condition for receiving such funds, it must comply with the Rehabilitation Act and ACAA. … The Rehabilitation Act specifically outlaws retaliating against a person who asserts his rights under the act, i.e. by filing a lawsuit in federal court.”
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