Blind Man and His Service Dog Kicked Off US Airways Flight

By Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell |

A blind man and his service dog were kicked off of a US Airways flight from Philadelphia International Airport to Long Island Wednesday night.

The incident apparently started when Albert Rizzi was told that his service dog, Doxy, had to be secure under the seat in front of him.

After the plane waited for an hour to take off, the dog became restless and curled up under Rizzi's feet.

The airline contends that Rizzi became verbally abusive with flight attendants and when other passengers became involved, the captain came out and told the passengers they will be removed from the aircraft due to safety concerns.

The flight was eventually cancelled.

Accounts of what really happened vary from Rizzi and some of the passengers on board.

"This is a case of a passenger becoming disruptive," Andrew Christie, a spokesman for US Airways told Pet360. "The passenger refused to comply with instructions when crew asked them to."

Christie says that all dogs, including service dogs, must be under the seat in front of the passenger. "It doesn't seem as if the space would work for that, but it does," says Christie.

Some passengers on the flight had a different take of the incident.

"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?'" Frank Ohlhorst told "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."

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Christie says this is not an incident where anyone was asked to leave the plane because he had a service dog. "We have a training program in which we partner with Assistance Dogs International in which our employees volunteer their own time helping train assistance dogs to fly with their handlers."

Christie says the airline is very supportive of passengers with service animals and the airline has partnered with ADI for more than a decade.

After the flight was canceled, US Airways offered passengers a bus ride to their destination in Islip, New York. Rizzi and his dog were among the passengers that took up the airline on its offer.

The incident is just one of two national news stories involving services dogs this week. In Burlington, New Jersey, a permanently disabled veteran was asked on Veteran's Day to leave a restaurant when he brought his service dog, Cooper, which he says helps him with his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Unlike the incident on US Airways, that incident appears to be a case of a restaurant owner who was concerned about health department regulations and did not understand the American with Disabilities Act law that allows service dogs in restaurants.

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