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Asthma and Perfume on a Plane

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Jet Blue Flight 91 New York to Oakland departed 6:32pm
Flight Attendant: Cynthia

I was sitting in seat 2F aboard flight 91. I realized that there were several people around me wearing perfume or other strong scents. Because of this, I put on my miniature air purifier. I did this because I have very severe asthma and allergies to perfumes and scents. Having an asthma attack is not something I want to experience at 30,000 feet, and so I carry my miniature air purifier. This device has made it possible for me to travel in comfort. I have flown with this device on many airlines and have never been told it was not allowed.

About an hour into the flight, Cynthia, a flight attendant told me that it was against Jet Blue regulations to wear such devices in cabin. I explained to her that I have asthma, that I have severe allergies and that I need something to help me deal with the perfumes and scents that people around me are wearing.

I asked her if she would ask the travelers sitting around me to voluntarily use alcohol wipes to remove the perfume. She refused. She was adamant that I turn off the device, and offered no other assistance, except for a white claustrophobic mask. Wearing a mask would not have helped me. I again explained to her that I have asthma and that I need to wear the air purifier in order to breath clean air.

Later on in the flight, she showed me a page from the Jet Blue regulations, showing me that Jet Blue does not allow such devises. The device pictured on the page did not look anything like my own device.

Later on, Cynthia apologized and told me she was just following orders, and handed me a yellow slip, showing that I did not comply with a request by the crew. I do not blame Cynthia for her actions. She was doing her best to follow with the rules of her job. Whether she agrees with the rules or not, whether the rule makes any sense or not, she is compelled to comply.

After another hour into the flight, Cynthia called me away from my seat and asked me to meet her in the galley. I complied. She informed me that if I did not turn off my miniature air purifier, the captain would ground the plane at salt lake city and eject me from the plane. Feeling trapped and not wanting to inconvenience the passengers, I turned off my device.

Besides perfume and scents, severe emotional distress can also bring on an asthma attack. Being threatened with ejection from the plane and causing terrible inconvenience to all the passengers onboard, was too stressful for me. I finally had the asthma attack that had been building up for the last few hours due to the perfume.

I am a disabled person. Even though asthma and allergies are "hidden" and not as obvious as a missing limb, for example, they are still viable and real disabilities under the Americans With Disabilities Act. As a disabled person, I have the right to protect my health any way that I can, so long as I do not endanger others to do it. Wearing a miniature air purifier is hardly a health hazard to a plane full of people. People who wear strong scents in cramped and enclosed public spaces, like a crowded plane, are a very real and serious health hazard to the many millions of travelers who suffer from asthma and allergies.

Airlines have gone a long way to protect the health of passengers, particularly those of us with asthma and allergies by banning smoking, so why not ban the wearing of strong perfumes and scents? No matter how good the air circulation is on an airplane, it cannot filter out strong perfumes and scents. An allergy sufferer or asthmatic needs assistance and support from flight attendants so that they can be comfortable in the cabin. That assistance and support should include asking people wearing strong scents to wash them off.

Finally, after I begged Cynthia to do something to help me, she asked the people around me to do this. Only one complied. I went back to my seat and was wheezing uncontrollably. I begged another flight attendant for help. I asked for oxygen. He seemed a bit put out, but finally, Cynthia came along and found an oxygen tank, which she passed over to me. I spent the last 90 minutes of the flight using the oxygen tank.

When I am exposed to a contaminant, it can take up to two weeks for my lungs to heal and for the contaminant to clear from my system. The symptoms are very much like the flu.

This situation could have been entirely avoided if 1) the airline allowed me to wear my air purifier and 2) the flight attendant made a serious effort to ask the people around me to remove their scents.

I am formally disputing the claim made by Jet Blue staff that I "refused to comply" with the orders of the flight crew. I should not be penalized for trying to protect my health.

All allergy sufferers and asthmatics need to know about Jet Blue's discriminatory policies toward respiratory disability sufferers.

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