Southwest Sued By Flight Attendant Over Family COVID-19 Death

A bereaved flight attendant working for Southwest Airlines has filed a $3 million lawsuit against her employer over the death of her husband, a 73-year-old veteran retiree, from COVID-19. The lawsuit claims that the airline was negligent in not doing enough to protect its employees from transmission of the virus during staff training in July last year.

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A Southwest Airlines flight attendant is holding the carrier responsible for their husband’s death in COVID pneumonia. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Claims of direct responsibility

The 69-year-old flight attendant and her husband got sick with COVID-19 days after she had attended a one-day training session at Baltimore-Washington International Airport on July 13, 2020.

The husband, who had driven the flight attendant to the airport, became severely ill and passed away a few weeks later. Doctors at the Pennsylvania hospital where he was being treated listed COVID pneumonia as the first cause of death. The couple had been married for 35 years.

The flight attendant, who has been flying for Southwest since 2016, says that the airline is directly responsible for the death of her husband. She is requesting $3 million in damages in a federal lawsuit filed with the US District Court in Maryland, claiming negligence on behalf of the airline.

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The lawsuit claims that the airline did not apply the same precautions for its staff on training as it did for passengers. Photo: Southwest Airlines

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No temperature checks or distancing

In an interview with USA Today’s Dawn Gilbertson, the woman said that she firmly believed her husband would still be alive if Southwest would have applied the same strict protocols during the training for the staff as it does for passengers on aircraft.

“They were cleaning the seats. They were cleaning the air vents. They were cleaning the seat belts. Every touchpoint was cleaned. They did not do that in my training last year,” the bereaved widow said.

The lawsuit claims that there were no hand sanitizers or gloves for hands-on training available. Nor was there any mention about not touching face and eyes, no social distancing, and no symptoms or temperature checks.

The flight attendant became symptomatic three days after the training at Baltimore-Washington. Her husband was also taken ill shortly thereafter, and the couple got tested for COVID on July 23rd.

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Southwest filed a motion to dismiss on Friday, saying that the claims were not actionable under law. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Airline sympathizes but files to dismiss

Simple Flying has sought Southwest for a comment but was yet to receive a response at the time of publication. This article may be updated with a statement when one is forthcoming. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the airline told USA Today that,

“The claims asserted in the complaint reflect an understandably emotional response to a devastating personal loss, but they are not actionable under the law.” 

Southwest further stated that its responsibility was to provide a ‘reasonably safe work environment’ for its employees but that this did not extend to others in the household. The airline filed a motion on Friday to dismiss the case.