Saying he was made to feel like “less than a dog,” an American Airlines customer is suing the airline, alleging discrimination after he was forced off the plane in a dispute over his seatmate’s service dog.
Dana Holcomb, of Killeen, Texas, is seeking damages from the airline over the April incident.
Holcomb, an African-American, said he had been assigned a first-class seat next to a woman traveling with her service dog. Holcomb told the cabin crew he was allergic to dogs and began experiencing signs of a reaction.
After failing to swap seats with a fellow first-class passenger on the flight from Las Vegas, connecting through Phoenix, to Texas, Holcomb said the pilot and crew then asked him to take a seat in the back of the plane.
The captain was caught on camera pointing in Holcomb’s face, and the passenger removed from the plane in Phoenix, without his luggage or medication.
“Dana was taken off an airplane so a dog could fly first-class cabin,” Reginald McKamie, Sr., Holcomb’s attorney, said. “What American Airlines is doing is discrimination. They have repeatedly humiliated African American citizens by throwing them off the plane, leaving them with no way home, no hotel, just throwing them off the plane.”
A spokesperson for the airline said in a statement: “If a lawsuit is filed, American will review it and respond in court when appropriate. We are proud to serve customers of all backgrounds and are committed to providing a positive, safe travel experience for everyone who flies with us. Regulations require American Airlines to transport service and support animals. American makes every effort to accommodate all passengers, including those traveling with and seated near service or support animals. In the case of an allergy, we work to re-seat a passenger further away from the service or support animal.
“If the customer is still not comfortable flying, we will rebook them on the next available flight to their destination.”
Holcomb spent $1,700 on a new flight on Delta in order to get home.
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