A legally blind man was kicked off a US Airways flight Wednesday night after crew members grew upset over his seeing eye dog, Doxy. Also given the boot? About 30 other passengers, who effectively mutinied over the man’s treatment, causing the flight to be canceled.
In an interview with ABC Philadelphia, Albert Rizzi explained that after the flight took more than an hour to take off, his dog became restless and moved out from under the seat in front of him to curl up under his legs. At that, he says a flight attendant instructed him to move the dog, which he attempted to do.
“[The flight attendant] came back and said to him, ‘You’ve got about a minute to get this straightened out,'” one passenger recalled to ABC New York. “And he tried to do whatever he could, and she went back to the front of the plane. We were taxiing like we were going to take off. And at that point in time, we’re about to take off, and all the sudden the captain gets on the PA and says we have to head back to the terminal.”
The airline told NBC Philadelphia that Doxy had walked into the aisle, a statement Rizzi denies. Either way, the plane returned to the terminal, where Rizzi and his guide dog were escorted off.
Once other passengers realized Rizzi was getting kicked off, however, they started to voice their disagreement.
“When we, the passengers, realized what was going on, we were, like, ‘Why is this happening? He’s not a problem. What is going on?'” passenger Frank Ohlhorst told ABC Philadelphia. “And we all kind of raised our voices and said, ‘This is a real problem.’ The captain came out of the cockpit and he basically asked us all to leave the aircraft.”
The flight was subsequently canceled, and many passengers traveled from Philadelphia to Long Island, N.Y., their intended destination, via a bus paid for by US Airways.
In an emailed statement to The Huffington Post, US Airways says Rizzi “became disruptive and refused to comply with crew member instructions when the flight attendant asked him to secure his service dog at his feet. As a result of his disruptive behavior, the crew returned to the gate and removed Mr. Rizzi and his service dog from the flight.”
As for Rizzi, he says he’s grateful for the support of other passengers.
“These people, all of them, got on a bus and drove 3 and a half hours from Philadelphia,” he told ABC Philadelphia. “They could have stayed on the plane, but they chose not to. I’m so humbled.”
Source: Huffington Post