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Southwest Airlines

SW “Disheartened” by the Way Things Unfolded After Allergic Flyer Dragged off Plane

SW “Disheartened” by the Way Things Unfolded After Allergic Flyer Dragged off Plane
Jeff Edwards

When a passenger with severe allergies complained about a support dog on her flight, eerily familiar footage of a disgruntled flyer being brutally ejected from a plane soon followed.

Southwest Airlines appears determined not to make the same mistakes as United Airlines. In a situation remarkably similar to the recent United scandal, Southwest is dealing with public outcry after footage surfaced of a passenger being brutally dragged off a flight as a result of a debatable policy decision.

United Airlines officials are widely viewed to have dropped the ball when responding to outrage over the mistreatment of physician David Dao who was violently removed from his flight to make his seat available for an employee. The airline initially blamed the victim before finally offering a full-throated apology nearly a week later.

Southwest Airlines found itself in much the same boat this week after a passenger was roughly dragged off of her flight after complaining that service dogs on the plane were putting her health at risk due to her severe allergies. Like United, Southwest struck a defiant tone at first, before choosing the route of appeasement. Learning a lesson from its competitor’s missteps, however, Southwest officials were much quicker to reverse course.

“Our policy states that a customer (without a medical certificate) may be denied boarding if they report a life-threatening allergic reaction and cannot travel safely with an animal on board,” a Southwest Airlines spokesperson told NBC News in a statement. “Our flight crew made repeated attempts to explain the situation to the customer, however, she refused to deplane and law enforcement became involved.”

While the airline initially reiterated the policy reasons that caused the flyer to be ordered off the plane and noted that her refusal to follow crew member instructions helped to escalate the situation, officials soon took a more conciliatory tact, simultaneously apologizing for the incident while at the same time pointing the finger at the police who were called to remove the uncooperative passenger from the aircraft.

“We are disheartened by the way this situation unfolded and the customer’s removal by local law enforcement officers,” the airline said in a later statement. “We publicly offer our apologies to this customer for her experience, and we will be contacting her directly to address her concerns.”

Anila Daulatzai, the woman who stars in the latest viral video filmed on a Southwest flight Tuesday was criminally charged for her part in the dispute. In addition to deft public relations work, this fact put Southwest in a much better position than its legacy carrier rival – Dao was never criminally charged and in fact, eventually reached an undisclosed financial settlement with the airline.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (11)

11 Comments

  1. Kensate

    September 29, 2017 at 4:48 am

    This woman was unable to provide any evidence of a medical problem. Those with medical problems should be required to inform the airlines prior to flight!

    The person with the service animal had the right here because they informed the airlines during booking!
    This woman is simply selfish!

  2. NHBandit69

    September 29, 2017 at 5:26 am

    “Our policy states that a customer (without a medical certificate) may be denied boarding if they report a life-threatening allergic reaction and cannot travel safely with an animal on board,”

    How about they institute a policy where a passenger has to show a medical certificate requiring a support animal before they are allowed to board with one? I have no problem whatsoever with seeing eye dogs, but “emotional assistance” animals? If you’re so emotionally damaged that you require a dog to go with you everywhere in order for you to operate, then what are you doing on an airplane?

  3. Snuggs

    September 29, 2017 at 6:46 am

    Doesn’t this statement conveniently “fly” in the face of Southwest’s stated “NO ASK” policy? You know, the one where you tell your employees that you can’t ask for proof of a claimed disability?

    Interestingly, if you approach an WN desk and advise them that you have a nut allergy, offending snacks will be swept clean. Moreover, on several WN flights, I witnessed announcements that stated that you were prohibited (not asked, but prohibited) from consuming any nut products during the flight, and this included items that you may have brought on board and in your personal possession. Again, NO ASK policy specifically prohibits WN employees from asking for proof.

    To bad for SWA, they were the scape goat. I don’t know what WN should have done, but puling out a policy that contradicts their actual practiced policy makes them look like wieners. Someone needs to stand tall and state that this issue is coming to a head.

    An unfortunate realty was summed up by a statement from a pax I recently observed: “No they are not (comfort) dogs, it’s just the trending thing to do… and it’s so easy with a little white lie…”

    I’m guessing that WN did not challenge the pax with the “service animal” for proof under the “DON”T ASK” policy. Yet the other pax was arrested for failure to produce documentation.

  4. TMOliver

    September 29, 2017 at 8:45 am

    “Management” requires the making of hard choices, in this case, either the removal of the pax claiming allergies or the pax with the service dog…..a classic “Lady or Tiger” dilemma, and WN – with frequent flighrs – chose the most appropriate, removal of the allergic pax. Unfortunately, she displayed all the wisdom of a turnip and the self-serving arrogance of a narcissist.

  5. drphun

    September 29, 2017 at 9:55 am

    I would like to see more analysis of this. Service animal fraud occurs under the umbrella of the ADA. The EEOC says a business can’t require documentation of the disability, or even ask what the disability is, and documentation of the need for the service animal – Only two questions may be asked:
    1. Is the animal required because of a disability?
    2. What work or task has the animal been trained to perform? But of course a life threatening allergy is a disability too that must be accommodated and a business can’t require documentation of that disability either, or even ask for details of the disability. What is the airline to do? What if I am allergic to not having peanuts? Is it the first person to ask for an accommodation that must be accommodated? Should the business be required to give advance notice to anyone scheduled to be on that flight so they can tell the airline if they need an accommodation only necessary because of the other accommodation?

  6. pdsales

    September 29, 2017 at 11:34 am

    Once the animal is on the plane the allergens are on the plane. Removing the animal does not remove the allergens already wafting the air, it just removes the source of additional allergens.

    If the passenger was really allergic, it’s too late to clean the plane so it’s unsafe for that passenger to fly. If the passenger just doesn’t like dog smell or just gets sneezy but isn’t really at risk, they made a poor choice in suggesting that the animal posed a genuine health risk, because the contaminated plane was no longer safe for that passenger to fly on, whether the dog was removed or not.

  7. bergamini

    bergamini

    September 29, 2017 at 3:17 pm

    Tired of the judgment on service animals. They do lots of good in a cruel world for some people.

    Bottom line is that the service dog customer prepared ahead of time. I’d be interested to see the documentation the “deathly allergic” customer has to support their allergy.

  8. A Lyford

    September 29, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    If only airlines could find better ways to address allergies and animal transport issues. It seems like they are ignoring the issue altogether. Could it be that passenger outbursts are actually prompted by infantile responses to the real issues in their lives? Ms. Daulatzai might have acted out due to stress from worry over her father’s medical condition. Add that to the stress of a (maybe an unexpected) last minute booked plane flight. Our anxieties are magnified when we are stressed… who among us hasn’t asked, “Now why was I such a _____?” I’ll bet she doesn’t panic when someone walking a dog passes her on the street. Still, that’s part of being an adult, restraining yourself from acting out. One FA told me that a group of PAX had become irate after learning that peanuts would not be offered due to a PAX with an allergy. Seriously? These folks couldn’t go three hours without their peanut fix?
    I love Southwest, especially their FAs. It’s the only domestic airline I will fly on. However, I can and do fault the FAs for asking PAX to “put away their phones”. Absolutely outrageous!
    IDK whether the sequence of events that forced Ms. Daulatzai off the plane have been accurately reported. It appears she had asked for more than being re-seated at a distance from the animals, that she demanded that the animals should be removed altogether. More important: she claimed a life-threatening allergy and wouldn’t back down from this statement even after the FAs explained WN policy which would result in her being forced off the plane… if she didn’t have written medical certification that it was safe for her to fly.
    So did she seal her fate by making bad choices?
    Snowdog9 cites a post by a right-wing anti-Islamic website featuring Ms. Daulatzai which implies that Muslims hate dogs and her objections to the animals were religion-based. Hmmm.
    Here’s where I fault Ms. Daulatzai:
    Booking a flight on WN and expecting no animals on board.
    Challenging members of the Baltimore PD. Could she possibly be unaware of their reputation? Based on the Freddie Gray acquittals, some people think they know they can literally get away with murder. Not bringing a face mask. A box of 10 (quite comfortable, in my experience) surgical masks costs less than $20 and can substantially reduce inhalation of antigens.
    If she really is an educated person, then Ms. Daulatzai should be cognizant of ways to reduce exposure. A standard high school science class should have informed her that just because her flight has no animals on board doesn’t mean the cabin isn’t massively contaminated from previous flights. The FAs can’t hose the cabin out between flights. Sadly, it falls to allergy sufferers to protect themselves by buying masks when they fill their Rx for Singulair and Clarinex. BTW, I’ve found that wearing a face mask can help keep that neighboring seat empty.
    For details on my erudite solutions for animals and allergies, interested readers can private message me on FlyerTalk, because yes, my comment here is ridiculously lengthy. Those who just want to criticize my snark, I urge you to restrain yourselves. LOL

  9. Nevsky

    September 29, 2017 at 8:23 pm

    One solution (although might not work with the ADA) is to remove the dogs and say they will fly with the pets in the cargo hold and that if the owners of the animals wanted to take another flight they could. We might then see how much these passengers really needed their animals.

    One thing that all airlines should be required to do is to only allow “service animals”/pets in certain seat areas of the plane and there should preferably be plastic put on the floor so the allergens can be easily cleaned up. Animals should never ever be allowed on seats and passengers who do so should be penalized. People do not realize that the dander can stay around for weeks and those who do not care are just selfish.

    Still the ADA and government rules must do much more to protect the allergic. I cannot comment about this woman, but an allergic reaction and difficulty breathing is much more of a serious problem than coping with the lack of one’e emotional support animal.

    What would be very interesting is if airlines could keep and exchange records. I would not be surprised if many of these people who claim to need a service animal on a domestic flight suddenly do not need it when they fly internationally where if is very difficult to travel with pets. If it is shown you travel internationally without a pet, then no pet for you ever on board.

  10. NYC96

    September 30, 2017 at 6:29 am

    A Lyford September 29, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    I love Southwest, especially their FAs. It’s the only domestic airline I will fly on. However, I can and do fault the FAs for asking PAX to “put away their phones”. Absolutely outrageous!
    ———————————————————————————————————————–

    Southwest has a policy on filming onboard flights. Those flight attendants were simply enforcing company policy. Hence, they were doing their jobs!!!

  11. 1readyset2go

    September 30, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    I was in full support of what SWA did until this unnecessary apology. There are rules that have been discussed and they have to be enforced. What were they suppose to do, just let her stay on and risk her dying or having to divert?

    The police are not going to just sit there and wait for hours and hours hoping she will leave. They have better things to do. The very reason you call them is when a situation such as this, has escalated to the point where the crew cannot handle things. Cops have little tolerance for behavior like hers and never will, which is as it should be. She had a choice to leave and she did not. Guess what happens next? I have zero problem with this idiotic woman being forcibly removed and neither should SWA given her statements and behavior.

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