On his flight out of Los Angeles International Airport earlier this month for a 46th birthday vacation in Greece, gay West Hollywood resident Scott Schmidt donned a rainbow-colored surgical mask in order to adhere to the COVID-19 guidelines imposed by his carrier, Lufthansabut the same airline allegedly prevented Schmidt from wearing the mask on his July 24 return flight, according to the Bay Area Reporter.
Schmidt emailed Windy City Times a copy of what he electronically sent to Lufthansa: "I hope there is a misunderstanding here, as was not requesting an exemption from the mask obligation. I have already traveled and was attempting to comply with the policy.
"The issue was that the gate agent in Athens made me remove my rainbow-colored surgical mask and replace it with a solid light blue surgical mask. I included photos of both via the web form.
"If I needed an exemption, that would suggest that Lufthansa policy specifically prohibits rainbow-colored masks that would otherwise comply and I certainly hope that is not the case.
"I was writing so that you were aware of your airport representative's actions and could take steps to ensure that other LGBT passengers did not face similar discrimination in the future."
Upon asking for a statement on the matter, Lufthansa Group Corporate Communications' Christina Semmel emailed WCT with a statement about the situation and the airline's general policy: "Diversity and equality are core values for the Lufthansa Group and our corporate culture. In fact, as a global company, diversity is one of our leading pillars. The appreciation and acceptance of all people (employees, customers, suppliers, etc.), regardless of their gender, age, ethnic origin, religion, nationality or sexual identity, is one of Lufthansa Group's guiding principles.
"Safety is another key component of our core values. As an international aviation company, the safety and security of our passengers is, by far, a main priority. As safety relates to our mask regulations, on Lufthansa Group flights, passengers are required to wear a protective medical maskeither a standard surgical mask or an FFP2 mask/ KN95/ n95 mask with the KN95/N95. German federal and state legislation requires the wearing of these masksalso known as surgical masksduring boarding, while inflight and when leaving the aircraft. All masks must conform to the required standard, and if our cabin crews or ground staff, as well as external service providers, cannot distinguish between a surgical mask and a cloth mask, they will insist on the customer switching to a medical mask, since we simply cannot take any chances. When available, a medical mask is promptly provided.
"In this specific case from Athens, as our check-in and gate staff are service providers, we have no report of this occurrence from the morning of July 24th."
Schmidt agreed with the statement, but also told WCT, "There wouldn't be a record of the incident because I complied when asked." He added, "Their position seems to be that because it was a rainbow pattern rather than a solid color that their staff couldn't tell what material it was made out of." He also stated that others who may consider wearing masks that differ from what is required will now be informed.