An unusual event in the world of air travel occurred last night, as a flight was canceled thanks to the aftermath of kicking a blind man and his service dog off the plane. The man, Albert Rizzi, was informed that in order for him to fly with his service dog, Doxy, the dog would have to remain under the seat in front of him. This is where the accounts from the airline, US Airways, and Rizzi and his fellow passengers begin to diverge. According to the airline, Rizzi became verbally abusive with flight attendants when they tried to calm his dog, who had left his required underseat location. Rizzi counters that the dog barely moved and was not misbehaving.
Rizzi and Doxy were kicked off the flight, and then other passengers ended up raising such objections about the pair's dismissal that the pilot emerged from the cockpit to dismiss the rest of the passengers. The flight was canceled, and all passengers, not just Rizzi and his dog, were driven by bus from Philadelphia to Long Island. Evidence that passengers were also upset is substantial. One woman, known as Sophie B on Twitter, posted a series of angry tweets:
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.— Sophie B (@sophie_ba) November 14, 2013
Another passenger, Frank Ohlhorst, told ABC 6 in Philadelphia, "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?'" Rizzi says he was "humbled" by the reaction of the other passengers, who joined him on the bus ride to Long Island.
US Airways, for its part, released this statement: "On flight 4384 from Philadelphia to Islip, Long Island a customer with a seeing eye dog was asked to keep his dog near his feet when the dog was walking up and down the aisle. The protocol for service animals is to keep them at foot of the passenger. When a flight attendant asked the passenger to keep the dog where it needed to stay for safety reason the passenger got verbally abusive. A decision was made to return to the gate to take the passenger and the dog off the plane. 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 and U.S. Airways bussed the passengers to Islip NY."
What do you think of this story? Tell us on Facebook or Twitter. Here's a couple of our favorite examples of people's shaky relationship with airlines:
In 2011, Alec Baldwin was thrown off of an American Airlines flight for refusing to stop playing Words with Friends, the online scrabble game. Of course, after the FAA lifted the ban on in-flight electronic-use, he wouldn't have anything to worry about today. Here he is on SNL, poking fun at himself:
And in 2010, Flight Attendant Steven Slater, in a fit of rage for which he'd later be prosecuted, opened a cabin door while on the runway, grabbed two beers, and slid down the inflatable slide to leave the airport. Afterwards, he became a bonafide meme.