Albert Rizzi, a blind man who was trying to fly via U.S Airways from Philadelphia to Long Island, became the subject of an in-flight protest from other passengers when they came together to support him after he was removed from the plane.
Rizzi got in a dispute with a flight attendant over his guide dog, which flight attendants said needed to be under the seat in front of him.
“I said to her, ‘I really don’t understand what the issue is. I can’t do anything. She was expecting me to put my dog in other people’s space. They were paying good money for those seats. It was kind of odd,” he told ABC-6.
Passengers next to him offered to give him a hand by allowing the dog to curl up in a seat in front of them. But later, the dog moved over to him and curled under his legs.
U.S. Airways then said that he had to move the dog or the plane would be returned. Officials at the airline then said he got verbally abusive, ABC reported.
Rizzi said the flight attendant got mad because the dog’s paws were in the aisle, News 12 reported.
After the spat, the plane was sent back to the gate and security came in and removed Rizzi and his dog.
Passengers then protested the treatment of Rizzi and his dog, prompting the pilot to announce it was canceled.
On Twitter, one passenger wrote: “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.”
An airline spokesman told NPR: “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.”
“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 US Airways [bused] the passengers to Islip NY,” it added.