U.S. Airways is under fire after removing a legally blind man and his service dog from a New York-bound flight and then cancelling the flight altogether when other passengers objected.
In an interview with ABC Philadelphia, Albert Rizzie said that his dog became restless while the plane waited on the runway at Philadelphia International Airport on Wednesday evening for more than an hour before taking off.
A flight attendant objected when the dog curled up behind his legs and instructed him to have the dog lay under the seat in front of him, instead, he said.
“[The flight attendant] came back and said to him, ‘You’ve got about a minute to get this straightened out,'” one passenger told ABC New York. “And he tried to do whatever he could, and she went back to the front of the plane. We were taxiing like we were going to take off. And at that point in time, we’re about to take off, and all the sudden the captain gets on the PA and says we have to head back to the terminal.”
Rizzie and his dog were reportedly escorted off the plane once they arrived at the terminal. A number of other passengers objected to his removal and they, too, were escorted off the plane.
The flight was then cancelled and the airline paid for the passengers to take a bus to their destination of Long Island, N.Y., according to a statement that the airline gave to ABC Philadelphia.
“Mr. Rizzi became disruptive and refused to comply with crew member instructions when the flight attendant asked him to secure his service dog at his feet,” the statement read. “As a result of his disruptive behaviour, the crew returned to the gate and removed Mr. Rizzi and his service dog from the flight. …We apologise to the customers of the flight for the inconvenience. We are continuing to investigate the incident.”
Hundreds of patrons have taken to the company’s Facebook page to express their outrage over the incident.
“U.S. Airways should be absolutely ashamed of themselves for the treatment of Albert Rizzie and his guide dog Doxy,” wrote Jackie DeCara. “The incompetent flight attendant should be asked to resign.”
Added Mike Sully Ermini, “Will never fly this airline, ever. … Shame on that crew.”