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Passengers Exit In Solidarity After Blind Man is Kicked Off Flight

Passengers Exit In Solidarity After Blind Man is Kicked Off Flight

Albert Rizzi’s flight had been sitting on the tarmac for almost two hours, and his guide dog was getting restless. While Doxy had been waiting patiently under his legs for takeoff, the vibration of the plane was upsetting him, so he started edging out, and a stewardess came by to reprimand Rizzi, telling him to get his dog in hand so the flight could take off. Before he knew what was happening, he was being escorted off the flight, in a blatant act of disability discrimination. Like many frustrated passengers today, he took to Facebook to talk about his poor treatment, and tried to figure out new travel plans while he was far from home in the middle of the night.

What he didn’t expect was that the other passengers on his US Airways Express flight would exit in solidarity with him when they realized what was going on. Failing to understand why Rizzi was being removed by security, and uncomfortable with witnessing an act of discrimination without comment, they deplaned and rallied around their fellow passenger, ultimately taking a bus to their final destination in Long Island.

The 49-year-old frequent flier is used to traveling with Doxy, and unfortunately, this isn’t the first time he’s encountered discrimination over flying with a guide dog. Airline personnel are often unfamiliar with protocol or inconsistent in their application of airline and FAA regulations, along with observing the Americans with Disabilities Act, which guarantees access for Rizzi and Doxy. The pair are used to traveling together, and while US Airways claims Doxy wasn’t under control, other passengers tell a different story, describing a calm, well-trained guide dog who, like other passengers, just wanted to get to the end of the journey.

While access can be denied when service animals are disruptive, and that’s part of the argument the airline is using in this case, the airline may lose this particular fight. 35 angry passengers all witnessed the event, and are happy to testify about what they saw on board the Long Island-bound flight. Meanwhile, Rizzi may be looking into a new preferred airline.

Airline personnel are also claiming they felt “threatened” by the passengers, who began speaking out in support of Rizzi after a flight attendant began harassing him about Doxy. The situation is a remarkable illustration of how a group of people working in solidarity can radically change a situation; by being willing to be inconvenienced, the other passengers on board sent a clear message to US Airways and other airlines that when it comes to disability discrimination, passengers may not be willing to take it sitting down, so to speak.

Rizzi says he’s “humbled” by all the support he received from both fellow passengers on the night of the incident, and around the world in the wake of the spreading news. Here’s hoping US Airways improves its disability and accessibility training, so that no other service dog handlers have to face discrimination on their way to their destinations.

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Photo credit: smerikal.

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319 comments

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6:19AM PDT on Aug 17, 2014

great! petition signed.

5:46AM PDT on Aug 17, 2014

thanks for sharing :)

12:46AM PST on Jan 22, 2014

A huge THANK YOU to all the people on board who defended Mr. Rizzi and Doxy!!

Wouldn't it be great if US Airways Express had to give Mr. Rizzi and Doxy 1st Class for as long as he will be willing to use them again!!

3:19PM PST on Jan 16, 2014

I love it!!!! GOOD FOR THEM!!! Idiot airline!

3:19PM PST on Dec 17, 2013

Shameful act by airlines--showing no sympathy for a blind traveler with a guide dog after a long flight delay! I'm very proud of his fellow travelers for backing this man up and leaving the flight in a sign of unity.

6:56AM PST on Dec 17, 2013

stupid people often feel harassed by logical argument!

1:23PM PST on Dec 15, 2013

good job!

5:32AM PST on Dec 10, 2013

Signed!! How shameful act! Us Aircraft,you all should so ashamed of yourself,specially the personal in that plane!! Inhuman and stupid people!
I am so proud of these passengers,who reacted! Well done!

3:27PM PST on Dec 9, 2013

Yes, US airlines should be sued and they will come out the losers! Good luck Rizzi and Doxy!

1:09PM PST on Dec 9, 2013

What a great story. U.S. Airways should be ashamed of themselves. I for one will not use them any longer that is for sure. I hope more people boycott this airline and send a message that they cannot treat folks this way any longer. God bless that dog, his companion and the people who stood up for them.

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