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

US Airways caused an uproar on Twitter and Facebook when it kicked a blind man and his service dog off a flight.
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor

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.

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