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

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]

Comments are Closed.
robnbrwn September 28, 2019

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.

BMGRAHAM September 10, 2019

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.

lebelgo September 7, 2019

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.

williasp September 6, 2019

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.

drphun September 6, 2019

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.