Airline passengers came to the defense of a blind man and his service dog after they were asked to leave an airplane.
Albert Rizzi and his guide dog, Doxy, were on a U.S. Airways Express flight Wednesday from Philadelphia to Long Island. HLN affiliate WABC reports that the problem came up after Doxy started getting restless after the plane sat on the tarmac for an hour and a half. Rizzi said a flight attendant came to him about Doxy.
"The flight attendant said the dog can't be here. He needs to be stowed under a seat," Rizzi told WABC.
Rizzi told WABC that he tried to get Doxy away, even getting help from other passengers. Rizzi said each time Doxy moved, the flight attendant berated him. Eventually, the flight attendant asked Rizzi and Doxy to leave the plane.
"My sense of confidence about the things I've accomplished as a blind person were diminished," Rizzi told WABC.
Rizzi said he and Doxy were eventually asked by the flight attendant to leave the plane. But that's when other passengers like Frank Ohlhurst spoke up for Rizzi, saying he wasn't doing anything wrong.
"When we, the passengers, realized what was going on, we were like, 'Why is this happening. He's not a problem,'" Ohlhurst told WABC.
"We made a stink that what was going on was wrong and they didn't like that apparently," Ohlhurst told TV station CBS 2.
The captain eventually canceled the flight and U.S. Airways made arrangements to bus the passengers to Long Island.
Officials at U.S. Airways claim that Rizzi became verbally abusive to the attendant, saying in a statement, "Mr. Rizzi became disruptive and refused to comply with crew member instructions when the flight attendant asked him to secure his service dog at his feet."
The airline is currently investigating the incident, but say that the crew's safety was a factor in the decision to ask Rizzi to leave the aircraft.