US Supreme Court Rejects Bid To Drop Airline Mask Mandate

The United States Supreme Court has dismissed an application to void face mask-wearing rules on public transport, including airlines. The fast-tracked application was brought by Lucas Wall, 44, of Washington DC. He wanted to fly to Germany with this weekend but says he suffers from panic attacks when wearing a face mask.

The US Supreme Court has dismissed Lucas Wall’s request to void face mask rules on public transport, including airlines. Photo: Getty Images

“Due to my Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I have never covered my face,” Mr Wall stated in his application to the court. “I tried a mask a couple of times for brief periods last year, but had to remove it after five or so minutes because it caused me to instigate a feeling of a panic attack, including hyperventilating and other breathing trouble.

“I have been illegally restricted from flying during the last year of the COVID-19 pandemic because of my inability to wear a mask.”

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

Busy month in the courts for Lucas Wall

Previously, Mr Wall has been busy in the lower courts in his fight against the CDC and seven airlines. Those airlines include Southwest, Alaska, Allegiant, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, and Spirit Airlines. He accuses them of discriminating against travelers who can’t wear masks because of medical conditions. Federal law mandates the wearing of face masks on public transport, including United States-based airlines.

Lucas Wall has made six applications to lower courts since June 1. Those courts dismissed or denied all the motions and petitions. In early June, Mr Wall recorded an attempt to enter Orlando International Airport to board a Southwest Airlines flight not wearing a face mask. He was not allowed to board the flight.

Delta Air Lines is one of seven airlines Lucas Wall attempted to sue. Photo: Vincenzo Pace/Simple Flying

Justice Clarence Thomas denies the application

Mr Wall’s argument to the Supreme Court highlighted previous religion-based rulings. Mr Wall suggested constitutional rights, including the freedom to travel, to due process, and states’ rights under the 10th Amendment, can’t be suspended by the government due to COVID-19. But Mr Wall was asking the Supreme Court to hand down a decision that defied its normal procedural regularity.

“Such applications are both rare and rarely accepted, likely only in a case where irreparable harm could occur through not acting immediately,” Elliot E. Slotnick, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University told Business Insider.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court’s Justice Clarence Thomas denied Lucas Wall’s application. Airlines have welcomed the decision.

“Nothing is more important at Delta than safety,” a Delta Air Lines spokesperson said in response.

Lucas Wall’s case was “entirely without merit,” says JetBlue. Photo: JetBlue

JetBlue says the case was “entirely without merit”

JetBlue argued Lucas Wall’s case was entirely without merit. “Mr Wall cites that he needs emergency relief from this Court because, otherwise, he will be ‘stranded at his mother’s house. Plaintiff’s procrastination is not an emergency.”

Legal insiders say even if the Supreme Court had upheld Mr Wall’s case and granted relief, airlines remain free to enforce a face mask rule. The same experts suggest United States-based airlines would continue to impose the mask-wearing rule. If a passenger doesn’t like a carrier’s conditions of carriage, they remain free to choose another airline.

Mr Wall told Simple Flying he will not be traveling to Germany this weekend. He also says it is not the end of the legal road, saying the lawsuit now proceeds on its merits in the US District Court in Orlando. A motion for summary judgment was filed in early July and the government’s response is due on July 29.

Do you support Lucas Wall’s application? Should airlines continue to ban people who decline to wear face masks in airports and on aircraft? Post a comment and let us know.