In a show of solidarity, passengers on a U.S. Airways Express flight exited the plane because a flight attendant kicked a blind man and his guide dog off the flight.
Albert Rizzi, 49, a legally blind resident of Long Island, says he is considering legal action against the airline.
Rizzi told 1010 WINS that the flight attendant was angry that his guide dog Doxy wouldn’t stay underneath his seat. Rizzi said the flight from Philadelphia to Long Island’s MacArthur Airport was delayed and Doxy grew restless and agitated. She was curled up under Rizzi’s legs, but the flight attendant said that wasn’t enough. Doxy had to be “stowed under the seat.”
“I took offense to that,” Rizzi said. “My dog is not to be stowed, he’s not an inanimate object. 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.”
Rizzi, sitting on the back of plane, didn’t have room under his seat.
“I could not tell that there were other seats where I could have accommodated her needs,” Rizzi said. “She never once tried to move me or anybody to secure the aircraft the way she was purporting it needed to be secured.”
Another passenger offered to let Doxy sit under his seat. Instead, the flight attendant threw Rizzi and his dog off the plane, and 30 passengers stood up in protest.
“Security comes on and they go to take this gentleman off the plane with his dog,” said fellow passenger Frank Ohlhorst. “So when we, the passengers, realize what was going on, we were like ‘why is this happening? He’s not a problem.’”
The pilot eventually asked passengers to leave the plane and canceled the flight.
One 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 and others took a bus home to Long Island.
“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.’”
“The training of the dog was amazing,” said passenger Kurt Budke, who drove Rizzi home once they arrived in Long Island. “To say this dog couldn’t be controlled is false. This dog was more controlled than the people onboard.”
U.S. Airways claims the dog was roaming the aisle, and that “when a flight attendant asked the passenger to keep the dog where it needed to stay for safety reasons, the passenger got verbally abusive.”
U.S. Airways said the flight was canceled because the “crew did not feel comfortable operating the plane.”
“I want to educate U.S. Airways on how their staff can better support blind passengers,” Rizzi told ABC News. “That dog has to be with me. It’s as if you were asking someone with a prosthetic or a wheelchair to leave that at the door.”