American Airlines has stopped a four-year-old disabled boy from flying to an important medical appointment because of a COVID-19 testing mix up. Michael Seklecki Jnr needs to get to Boston Children’s Hospital for his appointment on Wednesday but his family’s hopes of flying with AA from their home in Florida were dashed at the last minute.
The Seklecki’s have been fighting a court battle with American Airlines because they believe Michael Jnr should be granted a face mask exemption on account of his disabilities including Autism.
Last week, a federal judge sided with the family and ordered AA to grant Michael Jnr a temporary face mask exemption for the next 30 days while the lawsuit plays out in U.S. district court. It’s believed to be the biggest win so far for campaigners who have railed against the federal face mask mandate on airplanes.
American’s managing director of legal affairs Peter Soares wrote to the family last week to confirm that Michael Jnr would be allowed to fly bare-faced on a connecting domestic flight on Tuesday from Miami to Manchester-Boston regional airport.
Soares did, however, warn the family that the airline was granting the exemption on the condition that a negative COVID-19 test was obtained within 72 hours of travel.
The letter noted: “The test result must be provided to American Airlines at check-in for the MIA-DCA leg of the flight”.
The test requirement was for either a PCR test or a rapid antigen test so the Seklecki’s decided to use a free at-home antigen test provided by the federal government as part of the Biden administration’s program to improve testing access.
Self-administered home test kits don’t, however, come with a certificate of proof that the test was negative. AA’s website explains that passengers granted a face mask exemption must provide “documentation confirming a negative COVID test or recovery”.
Southwest Airlines also granted Michael Jnr a 30-day medical exemption but did not add a requirement for a negative COVID-19 test.
Michael Snr believes the testing requirement is illegal and has filed a petition to find AA in contempt of court.
The current face mask mandate is due to expire on March 18 but flight attendant unions have called for a further extension. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) which represents AA’s crewmembers believe the mandate helps protect young passengers who still don’t have access to a vaccine.
And the union which represents crew at United Airlines also backs up that argument and claims the mandate increases public confidence in the safety of air travel amidst the pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hasn’t given any indication of whether the mandate might be extended.
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 relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.