A passenger who is blind says he and his service dog were kicked off a plane at Philadelphia International Airport after his dog left his seat. He wound up making the journey on the ground instead, joined by other passengers from the plane.
The U.S. Airways plane was supposed to take off for Long Island MacArthur Airport around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday but the airline canceled the flight following the incident.
Passenger Albert Rizzi, who is from Bellport, N.Y., says he boarded the plane with his service dog Doxology -- "Doxy" for short -- around 8 p.m. The airline says its policy is that service dogs need to be kept close by the passenger, preferably at their feet.
After being delayed for more than an hour on the tarmac, Rizzi says that around 9:45 p.m., the passenger next to him volunteered her space so that Doxy could spread out some more.
This is where the airline and Rizzi's story begin to differ. The airline contends that the dog became restless and began walking the aisle. At that point, according to the airline, a flight attendant told Rizzi that he needed to control his guide dog. The airline says Rizzi became verbally abusive.
The pilots turned the plane around, went back to the gate and Rizzi and Doxy were escorted off the DH8A plane. Rizzi says Doxy was never in the aisle and that this is the second time he has had an issue with US Air over flying with a service dog.
Passenger Frank Ohlhorst said Rizzi wasn't being disruptive.
"We were like, 'Why is this happening? He's not a problem. What is going on?'" said Ohlhorst.
The flight, operated by U.S. Air Express carrier Piedmont Airlines, normally takes about 40 minutes to make the 130-mile or so journey.
US Air said that after the incident the crew felt threatened so the airline decided to cancel the flight and instead organized a bus trip to Long Island.
The airline denied that angry passengers, who were either angry with Rizzi’s treatment or worn out from waiting to take off for far longer than the flight takes, became angry with the crew leading to the cancellation.
The airline said that Rizzi was not refunded since the incident is under investigation. The airline also said it will review the incident to make sure proper protocol was followed.
Click here for more news from around New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.