US Airways responds to social media attacks after blind man and dog removed from flight

US Airways responds to social media attacks after blind man and dog removed from flight

Summary: US Airways caused an uproar on Twitter and Facebook when it kicked a blind man and his service dog off a flight.


Albert Rizzi's service dog Doxy became restless after flight 4384 from Philadelphia to Long Island was subject to a long delay before take off.

Service dogs should sit on the floor under your seat. US Airways wanted to force the dog to sit under another passengers seats. After over an hour sitting on the tarmac the dog became restless and moved into the aisle causing one of the crew to complain.

Mr Rizzi tried to get the dog to sit under the seat helped by other passengers. The plane was not allowed to leave unless the dog was under the seat.

When Mr Rizzi complained the plane taxied back to the terminal and the airline removed him and his dog from the flight.

When the other passengers complained, US Airways cancelled the flight. Officials at US Airways say Rizzi became disruptive.

A statement posted onto US Airways Facebook page puts the story — and resulting media uproar into context.

“Folks – I know there is a lot of heat around the issue of the passenger and his service animal that was removed from one of our express flights recently."

"One of the first things everyone should ask themselves is, “There certainly must be more to this story than meets the eye … an airline wouldn’t just boot them off a flight for no good reason, right?” Absolutely.”

The post then goes on to say that US Airways transports more than 80 million customers each year and “ensures that all customers, including those with disabilities, are treated with dignity and respect”.

The post says that the customer is “an advocate for disability rights, and appears to have forced a confrontation with his disruptive behaviour, rather than simply complying with the instruction and securing the dog”.

“Everyone was tired, it was near midnight, and I’m sure patience was in short supply as the aircraft had already been delayed on departure due to a mechanical issue and the animal was restless. We all would be.”

“Several other passengers, upon seeing the customer’s removal from the flight, piled on to the emotional confrontation, making threats to contact media and make an issue of out ‘kicking a blind man and his dog off a US Airways flight’."

"This reduced the FA (flight attendant) to tears, and they were unable to continue as they believed their safety was in jeopardy. The captain made the decision to cancel the flight and alternate means of transport were secured to get the passengers to their destination.”

“Again, everyone was tired, it was late, and I’m sure folks simply wanted to get home. As a result, our customers did not get to their destination until after two in the morning.”

“So, having said all that, we apologize to the customers of the flight for the inconvenience caused by this incident and will be reaching out to them. I am sure everyone involved wish it had never happened and they had simply gotten to their destination on time.”

Often citizen journalism channels such as Twitter and Facebook provide a place for users to condemn brands based on unconnected snippets of information. 

 Brands have to piece the whole story together before they can issue a statement. Meanwhile they are vilified across the media for their silence.

Comments under the Facebook post continue to alternately condemn and support the airline. Fortunately, with social channels — everyone has a voice. Whether that is the right voice is something the reader must decide for himself.

Topic: Social Enterprise

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  • Sure there are more sides to this, or any, story.

    But anyone who's travelled on a US legacy carrier probably knows enough to be highly skeptical of the corporate apologists attempting damage control after an event with terrible "optics" (blind man, cute dog–come on, people!) goes viral on social media.

    Hopefully Corporate America will realize that their customers now have instant, and sometimes extremely extensive, avenues to express their displeasure. If you don't want to be this week's poster child of Industrial Insensitivity, train your people better, give them better working conditions, and for God's sake, fly your planes on time!
    • But at the same time, maybe handicapped customers will have to learn that

      that social media isn't an instant "do what you please" card.

      My cousin is legally blind, guide dog and all, and feels that he deserves above and beyond what sighted people do, and his attitude has not stuck well with me, or towards me, as I (as I've mentioned before here on subject appropriate blogs) was born with limited vision in my one eye. I've never asked for anything, nor let it stop me from anything - playing hockey, scuba diving, baseball, driving, ect. It kept me from joining the military, and I can't get a pilots license as it's a non correctable condition. He feels I'm doing a disservice, and/or being stupid for not taking advantage of it.

      I watched a program a few years ago, where a handicapped man searched out daily to find, and then sue establishments that were not 100% to the letter compliant with disability laws even though he had no issue navigating the stores with what handicap accessible fixtures they had. He did this not because he was an advocate, but because he found he could make a noce living suing using his disability as a weapon.

      The bottom line is that handicapped people can be a$$holes just as well as non-handicapped, and the rest of the world should do exactly what they want - don't treat them differently. With that in mind, if the passenger wasn't handicapped and caused this ruckus, they would have cheered for his removal.
      • I find your logic thoroughly disgusting...

        So by your reasoning the disabled passenger must be difficult because your cousin is disabled and difficult? I've heard the exact same reasoning applied to racial minorities to justify bigotry, i.e. "I knew someone of that race and he was bum so every one of that race must be a bum."
        You need help.
        • Wow, where'd you get that?

          Mr. Farrel was not extending any "logic", but his experience with actual abuses that may or may not actually matter in this case.

          What he *did* point out is certain people groups get a pass for behavior that folks outside that people group do not; treat people equally.

          I think maybe a re-read of Mr. Farrel's post might be in order; maybe FrankInKy needs help? ;-)
  • Meanwhile...

    the incompetent b^stards and b^tches known as TSA, felt up and molested the service dog...
    • Where did you hear that?

      The last I heard it hadn't been released yet and was looking at 5-10 yrs for threatening the safety of an aircraft. Oh and they found 1kg of meth under it's harness as well.
      Little Old Man
  • Facebook backtrack

    The US Airways response (the "folks" one) doesn't appear to be on their Facebook page any longer. I guess they decided to pull it, and the several thousand negative comments that followed it.
  • Bad journalism?

    This story is a good example of bad journalism on a number of levels:

    1. Eileen only presented US Airways side of the story, and worse, by selecting bits and pieces of the company's official statement released on Facebook.
    2. Eileen did not speak with Rizzi, or any of the other passengers, which are direct eye witnesses.
    3. One of those witnesses, Frank Olhorst, is practically an institution in technology journalism and spent how many years writing for Ziff Davis? The fact that Eileen was blind to his presence on the plane while writing her story shows a lack of research, experience and knowledge of who she works with and for.

    When I Tweeted to Eileen that her story was one-sided and only supporting the airline, and that she should talk to Frank, she Tweeted this back at me:

    "@reidwegs always good to see the other side of the story and not get tied up in the knee jerk hype..."

    Too bad the knee-jerk hype she is referring to comes from someone that helped establish the very company she works for! The fact that she is writing from London doesn't really bother me, but then is she the best person to cover this very American story?

    What say ye now Eileen? Have you spoken to Frank yet? Is an update story on the way?
    • blind flyer story

      Eileen is a LIBERAL SOCIALIST elitist that should be writing publicity for barack 0bummer.
  • Not the first time for Eileen not being balanced.

    Back in March 25, 2013 Eileen did another piece pretty much saying that Adria Richards did was ok and that she shouldn't have been fired, etc.

    This is just another article that is poorly researched and one sided. Also since no update it looks like Frank has not been contacted. Another vote for reidwegs above.
  • I'd like to see United respond to THIS too.

    On Aug 28, 2012, United Airlines killed a 2.5 year old Mastiff BamBam. After making every promise to guarantee his safety with United’s Pet Safe program, from the website to the booking agents to the ground personnel, guaranteeing air conditioned vans to and from the plane and air conditioned cargo areas at all times, United did none of it.
    • Oops. Wrong airline.