Albert Rizzi, a blind man and founder of My Blind Spot, a non-for-profit that strives to “promote understanding, respect, and opportunity for the blind,” says that he was afforded neither understanding nor any respect on a recent US Airways flight that would have flown from Philadelphia International to Long Island MacArthur Airport in New York. The passengers who were on the plane with him, agree.
Rizzi, who lost his eyesight eight years ago, told WCAU NBC 10 that he boarded the plane around 8pm on Wednesday, November 14 with his service dog, a yellow lab named Doxology, nicknamed “Doxy.” After being delayed on the tarmac for over an hour, Rizzi told WCAU that “passenger next to him volunteered her space so that Doxy could spread out some more.”
This apparently was an issue for the flight attendant, who would not let the plane leave without the guide dog going under the plane’s seat. Rizzi told Newsday , “It's 9:43 p.m. The plane hasn't taken off yet. The dog is out from where he was [under a nearby seat]. The dog's head is under my legs. The flight attendant comes over. She's very curt with me and says, 'I told you that dog needs to be stowed under the seat.'"
US Airways spokewoman Liz Landau told Newsday that it was then that Rizzi became “verbally abusive,” and that this was the impetus for kicking him off the flight. However, fellow passengers don’t agree with their side of the story. Construction worker Carl Beiner told Newsday that the flight attendant had a “superiority complex,” and that neither Rizzi nor Doxy caused a disturbance.
WABC Eyewitness News spoke with passengers on the flight and they said that Rizzi did nothing wrong and that “it was the flight attendant with the problem.” Regardless, Rizzi and Doxy were kicked off the flight. It was then that Rizz’s fellow travelers started to voice their minds. Passenger Frank Ohlurst said, “We all kind of raised our voices and said this is a real problem.”
This is when the crew aboard the US Airways plane decided to de-plane and cancel the flight, expressing “concerns over flying…with upset passengers aboard.” Beiner told Newsday that US Airways offered a free bus trip from Philadelphia to the final destination, Islip, a 130-mile trip but no refunds despite cancelling the flight. US Airways is investigating the matter and so therefore will not yet comment on refunds.
Rizzi and the other passengers who took the bus wound up arriving in Islip at about 3:45 a.m.