A man with severe breathing problems says he was “ambushed” while wearing a face mask on an airplane.
EasyJet apologized after one of its pilots was caught on camera threatening to remove the passenger from the flight.
The man was carrying an exemption card – but it was rejected by the crew on their journey from Jersey to Gatwick.
Face shields on UK public transport are mandatory, but some people are allowed not to wear them, due to age, health or disability reasons.
Wearing a face mask is ‘highly recommended’ on the island of Jersey, but some groups are allowed not to wear it, including those with breathing difficulties.
The BBC has also been made aware of cases where people with lung diseases have been fired from shops and other forms of public transport for not being able to wear masks.
Charities say exemptions must be respected by businesses and understood by the public.
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Nick says he can’t wear anything around his face or neck because he has chronic asthma.
“Whether it’s a polo collar or a scarf around the face, the feeling is stifling. I just find it harder and harder to breathe, ”he says. “It’s like a steel belt around my chest. ”
Research suggests that face coverings can help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, especially indoors where physical distancing is difficult.
The Department for Transport for England says those who are exempt can choose to wear a homemade card, badge or sign.
However, providing documentation is a personal choice and is not required in law.
‘Storm of abuse’
Nick had printed an official exemption card from the government website before flying to the island of Jersey to see his family in August.
The card was accepted on the outgoing flight, but on return the crew said it was not valid and they should wear a mask.
Nick refused. He says, “The staff came to talk to me about six times. The 30 minute delay was considered my fault and each visit sparked more hostility among passengers.
“I was insulted, yelled at, made fun of. I felt like everyone was against me.
Nick says he got so desperate that he started filming on his phone.
The footage shows the pilot refusing to accept his exemption card and saying that if Nick did not put on a mask, he “was gone”.
Nick eventually agreed, but says it caused him to hyperventilate during the hour-long flight.
“I would do anything to avoid wearing anything that limits my breathing. It’s more terrifying than being insulted by 100 passengers, but in the end I felt like I had no choice. ”
Shaken by the “storm of abuse” he says he received from other passengers, Nick requested partial anonymity when speaking to the BBC.
EasyJet says all customers are required to wear a face mask, but recognizes that some passengers may not be able to do so.
A statement from the airline said: ‘We have recently updated our policies in line with recent UK government guidelines so that in addition to a medical certificate, customers can also provide a relevant document from a website. Government web or cord.
“We are sorry that this new policy was not recognized by the crew on this occasion. ”
The airline called Nick’s behavior “disruptive”, but one passenger, who declined to be named, said he behaved “calmly” in a “stressful situation”.
“No one seemed to care about his condition. The staff should have kept him away from the other passengers to have the conversation in private, ”he told the BBC.
‘Impossible to breathe’
With masks now part of everyday life, the challenge for many is to find a balance between security procedures and the protection of vulnerable people.
Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation called Nick’s story a distressing case, but say there are others like him.
“The government is very clear that there are exemptions from wearing masks,” says politician Sarah MacFadyen.
“The vast majority of people with lung disease wear a mask, but a small number cannot breathe. That’s why these exemptions are in place, so that they can still go out and live their lives. “