Sue Martin of Franklin, Maine is blind and depends on her service dog, Quan to navigate through life. While traveling to San Diego on American Airlines, Martin and her service dog were called “a danger to the safety of the flight” by the pilot of the aircraft and were booted from the plane.
The long trip from Maine to San Diego involved several layovers and plane changes. Martin says all of the flights went smoothly until the connection from Washington D.C. to Dallas.
When Martin, her husband, and Quan boarded the plane in D.C., they quickly realized that the seat they’d been assigned would not accommodate three adults and a 75-pound dog. So, naturally, Martin requested a seat change.
After making several seat change requests that were ignored, Martin, her husband, and Quan were asked to deboard the plane.
“The man said, ‘You have to leave the plane.’ I asked him why and he said the crew had decided I was a danger to the flight,” Martin told WCSH. “I’ve never had anything happen like this before.” Martin said there was no altercation between her and the flight attendants and that she couldn’t understand why it escalated the way it did.
“I stood up, reached for Quan’s harness and almost began to cry. This is just so far out of the realm of anything I have ever experienced in all my years of travel,” Martin said. “I felt helpless, I felt afraid, I was terrified.”
Stuck in Washington D.C., American Airlines paid for Martin, her husband, and Quan to travel, instead, on a United Airlines flight, but the travelers were forced to pay $80 out-of-pocket to travel from Reagan National to Washington Dulles in order to catch their United flight.
Martin filed complaints with the airline who says they are investigating the matter and “take all disability complaints very seriously.”
“Some reassurance that American will better train its personnel is the only way I will feel comfortable getting on another American Airlines flight,” Martin said. “I mean, if they can kick a blind person off a plane whose dog is perfectly behaved, what can they do next? I don’t know.”
Martin will be traveling for work the first week in May and must use the American Airlines contract carrier out of Bangor.