Albert Rizzi was planning on flying from Philadelphia to Long Island but his plans were interrupted.
Rizzi, who is blind, says he was kicked off a plane after his dog curled up under his legs instead of under the seat in front of him. The US Airways plane, which was supposed to take off at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, was delayed on the tarmac for over an hour. Rizzi says his service dog, Doxology, was under the seat in front of him until he became restless at around 9:45 p.m, NBC Philadelphia reports.
According to Rizzi, a passenger offered to move seats so the pooch could sit next to his owner during the wait. The airline contends the dog began to walk up and down the aisle. When the flight attendant told Rizzi to keep the dog close to him, the airline says Rizzi became verbally abusive. Other passengers began to argue, sparking the pilot to leave the cockpit and cancel the flight.
Rizzi soon took to Facebook, voicing his outrage over the incident:
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“I cannot believe this. I was removed from the plane that I was supposed to be on to go home from Philadelphia because my dog couldn't sit in a spot for an hour and a half on the tarmac such a joke. So now I am in Philadelphia trying to figure out what I'm going to do to get home. I have never been so annoyed flying US Airways all year and this is the way the stewardess treatment!”
Rizzi says he is overwhelmed with the amount of support he received from his fellow passengers – some of whom took a bus from Philadelphia to Islip, New York.
“There were 35 people on the flight tonight. Every one of them stood up in solidarity for the discriminatory treatment I received and the way my dog was unwelcome on the flight,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “I cannot tell you how honored I am that everybody got off the flight and we are all now on a bus going to Islip. None of the people on the flight signed up for this three hour tour and I thank them for joining me for standing up for rights of the blind and poor guide dog handlers.”
US Airways says they are investigating the incident. The flight, operated by U.S. Air Express carrier Piedmont Airlines, normally takes 40 minutes. The airline says the crew decided to cancel the flight after they felt threatened by the passengers on board – whether they were angry over Rizzi’s treatment or waiting to take off.
Rizzi, who says he warned the airline that he would be traveling with a service dog, said this wasn’t the first time he ran into problems with US Airways. “This is the 2nd time in 6 months that I had an issue with a flight attendant on this airline because of my dog,” he said in a Facebook comment.
Despite his frustration, Rizzi says he’s humbled by the experience.
“I cannot believe how humbled I am to know that 35 people got off the plane with me in solidarity. They all got off the plane because it was the right thing to do. They all got off the plane because the flight attendant misrepresented the entire situation. They all got off the plane, because Doxy and I were discriminated against, and mistreated for reasons that are unknown to me,” he says. “The flight was cancelled by all the people who purchased the ticket to fly this evening, and not because of anything due to mechanical failure. It was cancelled due to human kindness.”