Airline passengers rallied around a blind man Wednesday night after he and his guide dog were removed from the plane.
Albert Rizzi and his seeing eye dog tried to board a US Airways express flight from Philadelphia International Airport to Long Island, but passengers said flight attendants would not allow him to bring the animal onto the plane unless it could travel under a seat.
The flight was delayed for about an hour and a half on the tarmac, and the dog became restless, and other passengers said a flight attendant ordered Rizzi and his guide dog off the plane.
“The lady comes back and gets very insistent, and I said, ‘Look, I don’t understand what you want me to do,’” Rizzi said. “’He’s as best as he can, he’s where he needs to be,’ and I hear nobody else moving, and as I’m walking to the front, I’m like, wait a second, why am I the only one getting off?”
The rest of the passengers banded together and said they refused to fly unless the man and his dog were permitted back onto the plane.
“Blind man and his dog just got kicked off @USAirways after we’ve been on the tarmac an hour, bc dog wiggled a bit. Whole plane outraged,” one passenger tweeted from the flight.
Another passenger said the flight attendant gave Rizzi about one minute to calm his dog before removing him.
“He tried to do whatever he could, and she went back to the front of the plane,” the passenger said. “We were taxiing like we were going to take off, and at that point in time, we’re about to take off, and all the sudden the captain gets on the PA and says we have to head back to the terminal … We were all kind of raised our voices and said this is a real problem. So the captain winds up coming out of the cockpit, and he basically asked us all to leave the aircraft.”
US Airways officials say Rizzi was verbally abusive to the flight attendant and that crew safety was a factor in removing the blind man and his dog from the plane.
The other passengers were boarded onto a bus and driven to Long Island, where they arrived about 2:30 a.m.
The airline is investigating the incident.
Watch this video report posted online by KYH-TV: