NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A legally blind man from Long Island said he is considering a lawsuit against U.S. Airways after he claims he was kicked off a flight because of his guide dog.
Albert Rizzi was on a U.S. Airways Express flight from Philadelphia to Long Island’s MacArthur Airport Wednesday night when he said a flight attendant demanded his guide dog named Doxy be placed under the seat.
Rizzi said he was sitting in the back row of the plane with no storage room under his seat. After a delay on the tarmac, Rizzi said Doxy had gotten restless and was curled up beneath his legs. He said the flight attendant kept saying they couldn’t take off until the dog was “stowed under the seat.”
“I took offense to that. My dog is not to be stowed, he’s not an inanimate object,” he told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera. “This woman just did not want to understand that sitting on a plane for an hour and a half for any human is uncomfortable. The dog was just antsy and wanted to get comfortable.”
As WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported, another passenger offered to let Doxy stay under her seat.
Rizzi said the flight attendant later returned and kicked him and his dog off the flight because she said the plane could not be secured with the dog.
“I could not tell that there were other seats where I could have accommodated her needs. She never once tried to move me or anybody to secure the aircraft the way she was purporting it needed to be secured,” Rizzi told Hall.
The incident triggered a show of solidarity from other airline passengers, CBS 2’s Mary Calvi reported.
“Security comes on and they go to take this gentleman off the plane with his dog,” fellow passenger Frank Ohlhorst said. “So when we, the passengers, realize what was going on, we were like ‘why is this happening? He’s not a problem.'”
Another passenger Tweeted: “blind man and his dog just got kicked off @USAirways after we’ve been on the tarmac an hour, bc dog wiggled a bit. Whole plane outraged.”
Rizzi said he was “humbled” by the actions of his fellow passengers.
“All the passengers got off the plane and I was so emotionally moved by that,” Rizzi said. “I was just humbled to believe that people, 35 people, got off the plane angry and upset and yelling at management saying ‘she needs to be fired today.'”
In a statement to CBS Philly, a spokesperson for U.S. Airways said Rizzi was asked to “keep his dog near his feet when the dog was walking up and down the aisle,” saying “the protocol for service animals is to keep them at foot of the passenger, or under the seat, as they are considered extensions of the passenger.”
“When a flight attendant asked the passenger to keep the dog where it needed to stay for safety reasons, the passenger got verbally abusive. A decision was made to return to the gate to take the passenger and the dog off the plane,” the statement said. “At that point, other customers were unhappy about the situation. The crew did not feel comfortable operating the plane so a decision was made to cancel the flight.”
U.S. Airways said it then arranged to bus the passengers to Long Island.
The airline says it is investigating the incident.
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