CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) — Flight attendant Lauren Swaringer used to love to fly. Today, it’s torture.
“My hands burn really bad and my throat’s burning,” said Swaringer, in a cell phone video made on board a recent American Airlines flight. “It’s getting harder and harder to breathe.”
This week, Swaringer flew from Charlotte to Phoenix, when she said she started breaking out in hives and had trouble breathing.
She was given oxygen on board the flight and taken to the hospital where, records show, she was treated for an “allergic reaction.”
Swaringer blames the airline’s uniforms.
“I felt like my breath was getting away and I was trying to gasp for air as if I was drowning,” said Swaringer. “It was the most terrifying thing in the world.”
She says she developed a severe allergic reaction earlier this year, after several months of wearing the new uniform, which rolled out in September 2016. The Association of Flight Attendants received more than 6000 health related complaints about the uniforms from American Airlines pilots, gate agents and flight attendants.
“I never had hot flashes. I never had rashes. I never was shot of breath,” said one Charlotte flight attendant who didn’t want to give her name, but said she also experienced strange symptoms, including developing a urinary tract infection, hot flashes, and headaches.
“I never experienced anything like that,” she said. “I’ve always been fairly healthy.”
The union tested the uniforms and found things like Formaldehyde and a toxic chemical banned by the EPA. Twin Hill, the company that makes the uniforms, is being sued by at least 250 American Airlines employees.
Alaska Airlines employees had previously sued the company over similar health concerns. A judge dismissed that case last year.
“The chance of their being a coincidence for several thousand workers alls haring one thing in common, the same uniform, they all get sick at the same time, with the same symptoms,” said Los Angeles attorney Daniel Balaban, who is suing Twin Hill on behalf of 250 American Airlines employees, “that’s not a coincidence; that’s a defective product.”
The airline declined to comment on Swaringer’s in-flight medical reaction but told Fox 46 previously: “Despite the fact that multiple rounds of testing have shown that there is nothing wrong with the uniforms we would never want someone to feel uncomfortable. We have already decided to go to a new manufacturer and that process is already moving forward.”
For Swaringer, it’s not moving fast enough.
“I would like to say to American Airlines, Swaringer said, “please, please, please recall these uniforms.”