A Southwest Airlines flight attendant is suing the Dallas-based airline for the wrongful death of her husband who died after falling seriously ill with COVID-19 last July. Carol Madden, 69, who works out of Baltimore for Southwest Airlines says she believes she was infected at an airline training center and then passed the virus onto her late husband.
Carol is seeking more than $3 million in damages from the airline, claiming that poor pandemic protocols at the training center, as well as sloppy contact tracing contributed to her husbands death.
Her husband’s health rapidly deteriorated shortly after he was diagnosed with COVID-19 and he died a few weeks later after being admitted to the ICU. His death certificate lists COVID pneumonia as the first cause of death. Bill Madden was just 73 years old when he passed away.
Speaking to USA Today, Madden says she believes her husband would still be alive today if Southwest had applied the same COVID protocols that it had on its planes and in airports to its training center.
“I love my airline, but they didn’t love me back,” Madden, a cancer survivor, told the newspaper.
Southwest Airlines has reached out to Madden to express its sympathy for her loss but has filed a motion to have the lawsuit dismissed, arguing that the company’s duty of care responsbilities did not extend to the other family members of an employee.
“The claims asserted in the complaint reflect an understandably emotional response to a devastating personal loss, but they are not actionable under the law,” lawyers acting on behalf of Southwest Airlines told the court.
The lawsuit claims that while face masks were required at the training center, Southwest failed to provide hand sanitizer and shared equipment wasn’t wiped down or disinfected between attendees. Social distancing was also not properly enforced, the lawsuit claims.
Madden, who has worked throughout the pandemic, is required to attend recurrent training once a year as per Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules. She attended the training center on July 13 and fell ill several days later. A short time after, Bill also started to feel unwell.
It wasn’t until July 27, however, that someone from Southwest Airlines contracted Carol to tell her that someone on her training course had tested positive for COVID-19. By this point, 10 days had passed after her coworkers tested positive and it was a full 14 days after the training course.
Someone from Southwest even allegedly told Carol that her quarantine period had already ended and she could return to work.
“They didn’t care about us,” Carol told USA Today. “We were expendable.”
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Southwest said: “Southwest has taken enhanced measures to clean and maintain our aircraft, airports and work centers and follows all notification guidelines in accordance with the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)”.
“Additionally, the Southwest team works each day to ensure that our multi-layered approach to supporting our employees’ and customers’ safety stays current with research findings and public health recommendations,” the statement continued.
“Southwest will continue our dedicated efforts to support our people and communities as we collectively work together to slow the spread of COVID-19 during the ongoing pandemic.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently used by some of the biggest names in journalism.