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Kicked off a Plane so a Dog Can Fly in First Class?

Kicked off a Plane so a Dog Can Fly in First Class?
Jackie Reddy

An American Airlines passenger is taking action against the airline over a service animal and claiming racial discrimination. Dana Holcomb says that he was removed from a flight from Phoenix to Austin last spring after suffering an allergic reaction to a support dog. AA states that it tries to accommodate passengers in these cases.

An American Airlines (AA) passenger is taking legal action against the carrier amid claims of racial discrimination, CBS affiliate KWTX reports. The allegations involve Dana Holcomb, of Killeen, Texas, who says that he was removed from an AA flight from Phoenix to Austin in April after he suffered an allergic reaction to the support dog of another passenger.

Speaking to KXXV last month, Holcomb, who was seated in the first-class cabin, explained what had happened, saying, “I sat on the seat and there was a young lady sitting next to me who had a pet with her, a medium-sized dog in her lap. As I sat there for a few minutes my eyes, my face everything began to fluster so she looked over at me and she asked me if I was allergic to dogs.”

“She began to ask everyone in the first-class section if they would be willing to exchange seats with her and no one was willing to do that,” he added.

With none of the other passengers willing to swap seats, the pilot of the flight and a member of crew then became alerted to the situation. They attempted to move Holcomb to a seat in the plane’s main cabin, which the passenger resisted.

While a first class passenger did eventually offer to change seats, Holcomb was still asked to leave the flight, leaving behind his bags and medication. Speaking about the incident, he said, “To be honest, it made me feel that I was less than a dog.”

He eventually flew back to Austin with a different carrier.

Holcomb is represented in his suit by Reginald McKamie, Sr., who, speaking of the action on Tuesday, told KWTX, “Dana was taken off an airplane so a dog could fly first-class cabin.”

He added, “What American Airlines is doing is discrimination. They have repeatedly humiliated African-American citizens by throwing them off the plane, leaving them with no way home, no hotel, just throwing them off the plane.”

The purpose of their legal action against AA, say the pair, is to get the carrier to amend its policies with respect of discrimination.

In an official statement, AA said, “We are proud to serve customers of all backgrounds and are committed to providing a positive, safe travel experience for everyone who flies with us. Federal regulations require American Airlines to transport service and support animals. American makes every effort to accommodate all passengers, including those traveling with and seated near service or support animals.”

“In the case of an allergy, we work to re-seat a passenger further away from the service or support animal. If the customer is still not comfortable flying, we will re-book them on the next available flight to their destination. If a lawsuit is filed, American will review it and respond in court when appropriate,” it added.

[Featured Image:  American Airlines]

View Comments (26)


  1. Zobieee

    September 6, 2019 at 4:12 am

    Why isn’t the person causing the problem, ie, the person with the animal, the one who is rebooked?

  2. vargha

    September 6, 2019 at 4:14 am

    Geez, let’s not make every instance of stupidity into a racial discrimination issue.

  3. bigislanddave

    September 6, 2019 at 4:29 am

    Dogs belong on the ground

  4. Tharos

    September 6, 2019 at 4:33 am

    Hope he gets $1 million. This support animal thing has gotten out of hand.

  5. tromboneboss

    September 6, 2019 at 4:39 am

    Why didn’t they just move the dog? AA seems to be the worst of the US airlines.

  6. jrm68

    September 6, 2019 at 4:56 am

    It sucks this guy had an allergic reaction, but I highly doubt he was asked to deplane for his race. If he was having an allergic reaction the pilot likely was afraid it could get worse and then would need to do an emergency landing. I think suits without showing bias hurt real discrimination cases.

  7. mbgaskins

    September 6, 2019 at 5:18 am

    The story makes it sound as if she was there first with her service animal. If that is the case then she gets to stay under the ADA. Both of the disabilities cannot be accommodated at the same time so it becomes first come first served.

    One of the consequences of the ADA. She has every right to fly with her service animal.

    This has nothing to do with discrimination. Just another whiney passanger wanting a payday. I sincerely hope that he and his attorney, who should know better, get sanctioned for wasting the courts time.

  8. arcticflier

    September 6, 2019 at 5:22 am

    Where is the discrimination?
    It must be great going through life with a built-in victim card to always have available for special privilege.

    Why did the author neglect to mention why the PAX was removed. It suggests the PAX was aggressive.

  9. ck8

    September 6, 2019 at 5:23 am

    The title is misleading.

  10. MitchR

    September 6, 2019 at 6:18 am

    It isn’t a race thing, it’s just more goofiness at AA. I was forced to give up my aisle seat in first class and move to a window because a passenger with an “emotional support” miniature poodle wanted to fly on the buklhead. I wrote a letter to AA customer service and got a snarky reply that “if I didnt’ like dogs I should have ensured that I was booking a flight with no dogs.” I like dog, I just don’t believe that I should have to change a seat because a passenger with one is now making the rules.

  11. williasp

    September 6, 2019 at 6:33 am

    Why isn’t the passenger with the “service/comfort” animal moved? How does one passenger get to make a flight miserable for those sitting near that passenger? How does an airline decide which passenger’s rights are subservient to another passenger?
    If a passenger has a peanut allergy, the airline will not serve nuts to accommodate that person’s allergy. Why wasn’t a passenger with a dog allergy similarly accommodated? The rules need to be clearly spelled out.

  12. zhorik

    September 6, 2019 at 6:46 am

    How is this racial discrimination? He may have another case but really he is clutching at straws. As far as i am aware black people are not especially allergic to dogs seems like American blacks are far too sensitive about their colour, the fact they call themselves African American when they and their ancestors have been in the USA for over a hundred years is a cause of amusement in the rest of the world

  13. awayIgo

    September 6, 2019 at 6:52 am

    I am so sorry the passenger turned this into a racial discrimination lawsuit. I’d love to see the case where it’s a straight up allergy or fear of dogs lawsuit! It’s time for the rights of those who ARE fearful or who do have allergies are given the same consideration as those who fly with pets – uh, excuse me “ emotional support animals”. What about the emotions of those who these animals upset? Why is the passenger who doesn’t play games so irrelevant? BTW, a legitimate service animal is different.

  14. donna538

    September 6, 2019 at 7:07 am

    It’s not racial discrimination, it’s more like species discrimination. And service animals should not be on a lap anyway, the rules state that they have to be under the seat in front of you or at your feet. That was probably a fake emotional support excuse and she should have been told to get off instead!

  15. Disneymkvii

    September 6, 2019 at 7:15 am

    Words cannot express how much disdain I have for these so called “Service Animals” owners. If you’re emotions are so fragile that you can’t fly witout a dog, you can’t fly. Just stay home. Maybe drive. Take a train. Grow up. Be responsible. Board your beast. GTFO my plane and GTFO of the airport.

  16. JoeDTW

    September 6, 2019 at 7:33 am

    Normally, I’m not a fan of lawsuits, but I hope this passenger and their lawyer rip AA apart.

    It’s time for the pet / “emotional service animal” charade to be stopped. All animals, other than seeing eye dogs, belong either at home or in the cargo hold.

    If the airlines lose a few big lawsuits, then hopefully they will work with Congress and the US Government to change the “emotional support” animal regulations.

    Unfortunately, I think the only way Congress will be compelled to take action will be when the child or grand child of a legislator gets bitten by an “emotional support” pet………

  17. Kathleen541

    September 6, 2019 at 8:00 am

    Tired of everything becoming a “race” issue. This was a medical issue and that passenger was too sick to fly. Zero to do with his race!

  18. dliesse

    September 6, 2019 at 10:27 am

    The thing that bothers me the most is the line about the passenger being removed from the flight but without his luggage and medications. That could use a little more explanation — are the medications in his checked luggage (in which case my sympathy level is zero), or did he leave behind his carry-on (in which case I have to wonder why)?

  19. crwander

    September 6, 2019 at 10:33 am

    Both passengers have an equal right to their seats. That includes a legitimate service animal. It hurts that both passengers can’t be accommodated, but the person who has the issue (allergy) is the one who is obligated to move. It’s unfortunate that the airline couldn’t accommodate the passenger, but this is not discrimination. If the airline had forced the person with the service animal to move or deplane, THAT would have been discrimination against a person with a disability. Airlines are REQUIRED BY LAW to accommodate these animals. Either change the law or this is the way it is.

    Maybe the airline could have done more to accommodate the passenger with the allergy? It’s unfortunate that he feels this is racial discrimination when it’s really of matter of him not understanding the law.

  20. jlflyer

    September 6, 2019 at 11:15 am

    One of the worst things about this type of bogus racism claim is that the media will use it in their long chain narrative of bogus claims. “This comes in the wake of other reports of American Airlines discriminating against African American passengers…” It’s just one long cycle of nonsense referencing nonsense and it undermines people’s ability to report real instances of racism if they happen.

  21. peterk814

    September 6, 2019 at 1:08 pm

    This is getting out of hand, and the airlines are not necessarily at fault. They’re stuck between a rock and hard place trying to accommodate the two passengers. Personally I dont think animals should be in the cabin of an aircraft. This new ADA rule is ridiculous. If it was an ESA it should have been thrown off the flight. We need to put human rights above the rights of animals or those who claim they cannot fly without their pet for emotional reasons.

    I wish they left out the race issue unless theres more to the story we arent hearing.

  22. drphun

    September 6, 2019 at 2:06 pm

    So I suppose what the airline would say is that this was because the person with the animal asked for an accommodation before the person with the allergy? Please tell us how those of us with allergies can request an accommodation when we book to keep the animals off the plane.

  23. williasp

    September 6, 2019 at 4:33 pm

    To supplement my earlier comment: Perhaps the airlines should apply the carryon baggage rules to emotional support animals (i.e., pets). The animal should be in a cage that fits in either the overhead bin or under the seat and it should count as one of your permitted carryon bags. Just because you want to bring your pet onboard, you shouldn’t get to fill up all the carryon space with all your other stuff. Check something. We’re all tired of the airlines letting folks onboard with tons of stuff leaving no room for the folks who follow the rules. My wife and I bring one carryon each. Mine goes in the overhead and hers fits under the seat.
    And if you want to bring your miniature horse ESA, then buy it a seat and buckle it in. God help the nearby passengers if that thing needs to take a dump.
    I love farms and farm animals, just not on a plane. Plus, what about the rights of the animal? Where’s PETA when we need them. Hasn’t anyone considered that animals may be extremely uncomfortable in crowded airports and the tight quarters of a noisy, bumpy airplane? This is abuse, pure and simple.

  24. lebelgo

    September 6, 2019 at 7:56 pm

    Well, the photo in that article was not of a first-class cabin from Phoenix to Austin. However, I would think that a man’s allergies would take precedence over an “emotional support” animal. I’m certainly hopeful that this “emotional support animal” fraud meets its end. According to Newsweek, “Holcomb said he was not offered another flight and was forced to spend roughly $1,700 for a seat on a Delta plane the next day after being stranded. ” Of course, I wonder how race plays into this. I do hope, though, that Holcomb gets a nice award for this incident, which seems to reflect pretty outrageous behavior on AA staff’s part. The only person here with the real disability was Holcomb, who had a real medical condition, namely the allergy. He should have been the one who was accommodated. As the article states, this was an “emotional support dog,” not a service animal for a person with a bona fide medical condition such as blindness, seizures, etc.


    September 9, 2019 at 7:46 pm

    On the one hand I feel sorry for the passenger that was kicked off because this clearly wasn’t a service animal. It was an emotional support animal, which is often just an excuse to travel with an animal. I recently saw a couple travel with an emotional support animal. If your friend can’t provide emotional support then I don’t see how a dog can. The reason I don’t feel sorry for him is that he claimed it was racial discrimination just because he happens to be black. There are too many of these instances also, where people are not discriminated against but claim to be.

  26. robnbrwn

    September 28, 2019 at 4:32 pm

    Where’s the discrimination?

    HERE: While a first class passenger did eventually offer to change seats, Holcomb was still asked to leave the
    flight, leaving behind his bags and medication.

    Check your privilege.

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