A seeing-eye dog, similar to this one, was kicked off a plane with its owner when a flight attendant freaked out over its placement, despite not having a space available to lay down as mandated by law.
For all the talk of privilege and discrimination, rarely do the disabled, including the blind and deaf, get much attention, even though their needs for accommodation are just as important. Often, a disabled person will have trouble getting proper accommodations, and may even face actual discrimination by people who do not respect the disabled, or are completely ignorant of their plight. Such is the case of one Long Island-based blind man, who was kicked off a US Airways flight home with his seeing-eye dog in Philadelphia. The reason? The guide dog had no place to lay down, and the flight attendant refused to move him to an open or different seat.
Albert Rizzi, based in Bellport on Long Island, was flying home from San Francisco to MacArthur Airport in Islip, and was on a connecting flight from Philadelphia through US Airways Express. On this particular plane ride, Rizzi and his guide dog Doxy were assigned to the back row of the airplane, which lacks a space under the seat for the dog to stay put during the flight. Rizzi attempted to alleviate the situation by placing Doxy underneath the seat of another passenger, but the flight was delayed by about 90 minutes, causing the dog to wander around before straddling under the man's legs.
The flight attendant curtly complained about the matter, saying Doxy the seeing-eye dog needs to be "stowed" under the seat. When Albert Rizzi attempted to dispute the situation, he was thrown out of the flight with his guide dog. This was despite the fact that flight had four open seats, including the front bulkhead seat, which is specifically used for passengers with guide dogs like Doxy, per FAA rules. US Airways, in their defense, said that Rizzi was kicked off the flight due to being hostile to the flight attendant, and that passengers were upset with his behavior.
However, other passengers on the flight saw it the other way: The flight attendant was hostile, and the passengers were actually backing Rizzi and calling for her to be fired. After a while, the flight attendant had a breakdown, and the crew asked all passengers to deplane due to their "behavior." All passengers, including Rizzi, were sent home on a bus to Islip, but were refused refunds despite cancelling the flight.
The flight attendant's behavior was way out of line. The first hint that there would be trouble was not only assigning Rizzi to the back, but the use of the term "stow," as though Doxy were a bag or some other object. The possibility exists that the flight attendant did not know about being legally required to seat blind passengers, including those with guide dogs, in a way that accommodates them. But given the front bulkhead seat is close to the flight attendant's seat on the flight, there is also the distinct likelihood that she hates dogs. In any event, if anyone wants a good example of blatant discrimination that exists today, here is a good one.
(Image Sources: Flickr: iampeas, magnusw)