November 16, 2013

A US Airways Express flight from Philadelphia to Long Island was cancelled on Thursday after passengers protested the crew's ejection of a blind man over a dispute concerning his guide dog.

ABC Action News reports that Albert Rizzi was told to keep his guide dog Doxy under the seat in front of him during the flight.

"I said to her, 'I really don't understand what the issue is. I can't do anything. She was expecting me to put my dog in other people's space. They were paying good money for those seats. It was kind of odd," Rizzi said.

Rizzi says that after the plane was delayed over an hour, Doxy got restless, and "curled up under his legs." Then the flight attendant informed him that his dog had to be under a seat, or the plane would have to be turned around, explained Rizzi.

US Airways claims Rizzi "became disruptive and refused to comply" when a flight attendant asked "to secure his service dog at his feet," which resulted in the plane returning to the gate and Rizzi being removed.

Passenger Frank Ohlhorst describes what happened during the flight:

"When we, the passengers, realized what was going on, we were, like, 'Why is this happening? He's not a problem. What is going on?'" he told ABC 6. "And we all kind of raised our voices and said, 'This is a real problem.' The captain came out of the cockpit and he basically asked us all to leave the aircraft."

US Airways then cancelled the entire flight and offered to bus passengers from Philadelphia to Islip, New York, a 3.5 hour drive away.

Rizzi, who accepted the bus ride, said he was "humbled" by the reaction of passengers who joined him.

"They could have stayed on the plane, but they chose not to," he said.

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