Disabled Vet Booted Off Plane For Bringing His Service Dog

Action violated American Airlines' published policy

American Airlines Bars Veteran's Service Dog From Flight
Modern airline travel can be an unpleasant business. A disabled combat veteran learned that it could be humiliating, as well.

Kevin Crowell, who is a U.S. Army veteran with 20 years of service and "countless hours of combat," according to a WAWS-TV report, said that he and his wife were refused entry to an American Airlines flight at Miami International Airport because he was traveling with his service dog, Bella. That left him humiliated and in need of another way home.

The retired Sergeant First Class and his wife had flown from Jacksonville, Fla. for a Wounded Warriors event that took place in Key West. He said he brought his dog, Bella, on the flight down without a problem. According to federal law, he should have been able to do the same on his return. She's been with him through military banquets, award ceremonies, and a graduation.

Crowell not only suffers from PTSD but physical injuries. "They have no idea that part of my spine was replaced from roadside bombs, OK?" Crowell said to WAWS. "They don't have an idea that my shoulder was destroyed in Iraq. So now I rely on her for a lot of things and oftentimes I physically lean on her to help me through the day."

Crowell said that he had checked with American Airlines before his return and was told that he could keep her with him in bulkhead seats they had. Bulkhead sections have extra leg room and Bella would have stayed on the floor of the plane.

But when it came time to board, airline personnel said that he could not bring the dog with him. A flight attendant said that it was against airline policy to bring a pet into the bulkhead section. According to Crowell, he tried to explain the difference between a pet and a service animal, but to no avail. He, his wife, and Bella were turned away and had to walk back through the waiting crowd in "humiliation." They had to rent a car and drive back, a trip that would take roughly 5.5 hours, according to TravelMath.com.

Maybe the airline personnel should have read their employer's service animal policy:

American Airlines and American Eagle® accept service animals used by persons with disabilities at no charge. An animal may accompany a customer with a disability in the aircraft cabin, provided the animal can be accommodated without obstructing an aisle or other area used for emergency evacuations.

If a service animal is disruptive or too large to fit under the seat or at the passenger's feet without encroaching on another passenger's space or protruding into the aisle, it will need to travel in a kennel (provided by the passenger) in the cargo hold. The kennel must meet IATA kennel and size requirements for the animal. Temperature restrictions apply to ensure the safety of the animal.

There is no charge for service animals used by customers with disabilities. However, credible verbal assurance that the animal is providing a service to assist with a disability will suffice should an inquiry be made.

His wife complained to the airline. American Airlines reportedly offered a refund and said that staff will get additional training on dealing with service dogs, according to The Consumerist.

"I didn't join the military in the '80s and retire in 2013 to be discriminated against, especially in the United States," Crowell told WAWS.

Update 5/12/2014 10:26: American Airlines sent the following statement:

We sincerely apologize for what happened and have offered a full refund. In addition, we are using this as a training opportunity for our employees, reinforcing our culture of diversity and respect and the importance of our customers' comfort and safety. Our agents should always accommodated passengers traveling with fully trained service animals. Once this mistake was realized, our customer service team in Miami apologized and attempted to accommodate the customer, but ultimately he elected not to travel.

On further questioning, the American Airlines spokesperson said that the "customer service team helped place him on the flight, but he elected not to travel."

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trisanna

VERY INTERESTING, bECAUSE WHEN i TRAVEL BY AIR MY SERVICE DOBERMAN MUST ALWAYS ACCOMPANY ME AND SIT IN MY AREA. RUGER MY COMPANION IS A RED MAKE DOBERMAN HE CANNOT BE REMOVED FROM MY SIDE. i AM THANKFUL i DO NOT HAVE TO TRAVEL THAT OFTEN.

DOROTHY M. FOEGEN
TRISANNA

Friday at 10:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Trapper

AA should change its name to UNAmerican Airlines. This isn't the first time that this airline has violated the American with Disabilities Act and no one is doing anything about it. All this retraining is BS, They don't retrain anyone. A slap on the wrist when a kick in the ass is warranted. They dishonor the men an women who were harmed in defense this country with their brazen acts of discrimination. A boycott of this airline is what they need to get the message since the government refuses to enforce the law.

Friday at 8:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mgocean95

Next time the pilot/flight attendants try to boot off a American hero disabled veteran who fought for his country, at 30,000 feet open the cabin door and boot the pilot/flight attendants without parachute.

Now, look who's talking? LOL

Friday at 6:57 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Rodger

The airline is 100% responsible for its employees. If they've trained them and they failed to adhere to the law they need to be fired not retrained.

Friday at 6:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
russellbear70

As an owner of a small retail meat market I am forced to allow dogs into my store. I understand and fully support service animals for our military, I question the general public's need and usage. I was approached by a customer who told me of a woman with a small dog inside a carrying bag shopping in the store. I asked the woman to please take her dog out of the store because it violated health dept laws. She became extreemly beligerant shoutin g that her "dog" which she called her daughter, was a srevice animal and therefore allowed in the store. She told me that she (the woman) suffered from a delbilitating illness that prevented her from leaving her home with out her dog. The dog did not have any certification or licensing indicating that it was infact a service dog. I escorted the woman and her, "daughter" out of the store with her screaming insults at me. If an animal is fact a service animal I have no problem allowing them into my store, though it goes against my every notion of cleanliness. The occaisonal service dog s okay, but when people abuse that law thinking that they are somehow above the law pisses me off, and unfortunatly leaves me to question customers. For some reason people with toy breeds of dogs feel that because the dog is in their purse it somehow trumps the laws. No it does not, and I will not allow them in my business.

Friday at 3:11 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to russellbear70's comment
Ari

Some of the toy breeds CAN be service dogs for the hearing impaired as well as medical alert dogs to alert to problems with asthma, diabetes and siezures just to name a few of their possible duties. A dog does NOT have to be the size of a German Shepherd, Labrador Retreiver or the like to be a service dog. It's just that they are more commonly used as guide dogs for the blind that has many people immediately thinking that way. I have seen Chihuahuas alert for diabetes and Bearnese Mountain Dogs act as mobility aids to help support their people, so size does NOT matter. ANY dog that is medically recognized as being trained to help ameliorate a disability in a person is considered to be a service dog.A business can, by ADA Law, ask if the animal is a service dog and what it is trained to do. It is then on the owner to give TRUTHFUL answers to those questions to assure that the dog is a service dog.

Friday at 5:42 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
pfjw

Fire the entire ground and air-crew of that flight with prejudice (no unemployment). Any anyone up or down the chain that resisted in the slightest way getting him onto that aircraft.

Friday at 2:53 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
johnny18350

I hate when someone tries to use the stupid employee excuse. I dont use a service dog, dont know anyone that uses a service dog and have never worked anywhere it mattered. I know the law as theres been a ton of info about it for a long time now. You would have to be living under a rock to not know about. An employee that makes an error like that is being willfully neglegent and should be punished acordingly. If I have to choose between following my employer and following the law, I'm picking the law. Many years ago I worked in retail hardware. they concidered taps and dies a consumable and not covered under the brands lifetime warrenty. One day a customer brought in a Bunch of old broken taps for warrenty and even had the the manuel that came with them that said they were lifetime warrenty so I changed them out against the stores policy. The store was mad and threatened to fire me for it. I told them he had proof they were lifetime warrenty and they had to legally honor it and if they did fire me or try to harass me from it, I would not only file a complaint with the dept. of labor but would file a suit against them. They dropped it pretty quick.

June 19 2014 at 7:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jessica

American Airlines should be fined!! Service animals are allowed everywhere their person goes. People who whine about an allergy can be seated away from the service animal , no big deal. Many cats help people with tasks and alerts just like dogs. Mine gives alerts on the presence of a spider, due to my Arachnophobia. ADA stopped recognizing cats as service animals, due to Dept of Justice's ignorance, on how many cats are working. I started a petition on Care 2 titled, Re-Instate Cats as Service Animals in Americans with Disabilities Act. PLEASE EVERYONE sign it, so they can see an impactful number of people care that cats should not be in a prejudice manner because cats help so many people with disabilities.

June 19 2014 at 4:34 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to jessica's comment
tkaymichel

I'm very interested in what you're doing. I have MS, and currently have my second service cat. She alerts me when I'm coming down with an infection, and she also wakes me when I have asthma attacks in my sleep. My first service cat was officially registered in the county where I live, but I wasn't able to register my current cat because of changes to the ADA. I'd be interested in filing a class action lawsuit, if I could find others to help me. Most people don't realize our ignorant representatives changed the ADA so only dogs & miniature ponies can be registered. Miniature ponies, but not cats or monkeys? SERIOUSLY? Who came up with these stupid limits, anyway?

June 19 2014 at 10:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tkaymichel

I tried to find this petition but couldn't. Even when I went to Care 2 & entered "reinstate cats as service animals', I couldn't find it. I tried googling it, too, but found nothing. Maybe you should try Change.org because that seems like a better site for this kind of thing.

June 19 2014 at 10:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
recksales

Bottom line here is: I am allergic to animals, so I am told there will be no animals in the bulk head area. Then during the flight I will have a seizure, so your dog (service or pet) has more right on that plane than I?!

June 19 2014 at 2:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to recksales's comment
zecarlocris

What if another passenger who owns a pet, and has that pet's dander on his clothes, sits next to you? And unless you got that allergy from a roadside bomb in Iraq then yes, he has more of a right than you, who could simply take some medication.

June 19 2014 at 3:06 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
pfjw

You had better not ever sit next to me. We have two long-haired cats (Maine ****), a Scottie and a Golden Retriever. They are all quite affectionate and do "rub off" as it were.

The point of ADA is "reasonable accommodation" and permitting a service animal on an aircraft is, from your point of view, as reasonable as permitting me on an aircraft. Only the dog is a recognizable threat and you could be accommodated by being relocated. Get the difference?

Friday at 2:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
debid52

I hate the thought of more government regulation of anything....but if permits were issued for service animals then these problems would not continue to pop up. Either you have the proper license and you are allowed to have your service dog with you at all times, or you don't. End of controversy.

June 19 2014 at 2:42 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to debid52's comment
Ari

There are many service dogs that go through the schools to learn their tasks, true, but there are as many that are home trained by their owners to help them in living their lives from day to day. The ADA recognizes that fact by stating that no registration or certificate of their capabilities is necessary for the animal to do his tasks and be recognized as a service dog,

Friday at 5:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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