PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — An investigation is underway after a blind man says he was thrown off a plane in Philadelphia along with his service dog.
Albert Rizzi and his seeing eye dog were on a US Airways express flight from Philadelphia International Airport to Long Island Wednesday night.
Passengers claim the airline would not allow Rizzi to bring his dog on the plane, unless it could travel under the seat.
After a delay on the tarmac, the dog apparently became agitated, and that is when passengers claim a flight attendant kicked Rizzi and the dog off the plane.
“What I’m concerned about is that there are tremendous number of individuals in the disabled community who might not have the stamina, the strength, the confidence to stand up for their rights and speak out against these types of ridiculous perceived rules,” Rizzi said.
The incident triggered an unusual show of solidarity from other airline passengers.
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.”
For its part, a spokesperson for US Airways released a statement that confirmed that “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, or under the seat, as they are considered extensions of the passenger. When a flight attendant asked the passenger to keep the dog where it needed to stay for safety reasons 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.”
The spokesperson confirmed that an internal investigation is underway.