On June 2, 2017, Frontier Airlines Flight 1630 took off from Los Angeles, California on its way to Orlando, Florida. Two hours into the flight, a problem occurred with the air in the cabin, with passengers experiencing eye irritation, coughing, choking, and passing out. The flight made an emergency landing. The complaint for this class action says that this incident was due to the design of the plane’s “bleed” air system, and that Frontier and Airbus, the designer of the aircraft, have knowingly exposed passengers to serious health hazards without offering appropriate follow-up.
Two classes have been proposed for this action:
After the emergency landing, passengers were held at the airport for three hours. According to the complaint, some were seen by paramedics and others were taken to the hospital, but none were told what chemicals they had been exposed to. Plaintiff Andrea Ridgell, who was on the flight, later inquired via an e-mail to Frontier but was told only that nothing was wrong with the plane and that passengers would be given $200 vouchers that expired just three months later.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this event was that Frontier never publicly acknowledged it. According to the complaint, “publicly accessible records maintained by Frontier reported the flight as having landed on time in Orlando without incident.”
The incident on Flight 1630 is known as a fume event, where toxic fumes enter the passenger cabin through what the complaint claims is a design defect related to bleed systems, which draw or “bleed” high-pressure air into the plane through the jet engines. That air, the complaint says, can be contaminated with high-temperature engine oil, hydraulic fluid, and their byproducts.
The complaint claims that the bleed air is cooled but not cleaned, and that, while the air is put through a HEPA filter before being released into the cabin, the fumes are vapors and so are too small to be filtered out.
Also, the complaint claims that the bleed air is used to pre-pressurize the hydraulic systems, and that the very high pressure of those systems makes them vulnerable to “sweats,” leaks, and ruptures. In addition, the complaint says, contaminated air may include deicing fluids, jet exhaust, and volatile organic compounds and semi-volatile organic compounds, like the neurotoxin tricresyl phosphate.
The complaint claims that fume events are common on Frontier’s aircraft and cites a similar event on its Flight 1839 on May 20, 2018. It alleges that Frontier has known about the problems for a long time and that better systems are available for providing air to passenger cabins in flight.
The complaint alleges that the planes have a design defect, that the companies are guilty of breaches of warranties and negligence, among other things. Among the remedies it request of the court is medical monitoring for passengers exposed to such incidents.