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When legally blind, Albert Rizzi boarded a U.S. Airways Express flight from Philadelphia to Long Island last night, he placed his service dog under the seat in front of him, as required by the airline. But, after passengers were forced to wait over an hour on the tarmac, Rizzi says his dog became restless and uncomfortable. Instead of staying beneath the seat, the dog curled up beneath his owner’s legs on the floor of the plane.
That’s when a flight attendant informed Rizzi that the dog would need to be placed back under the seat, or the plane would be turned around and returned to the terminal.
U.S. Airways says that’s when Rizzi and several other passengers on board became argumentative, forcing the plane to de-board.
Passenger Frank Ohlhorst explained to ABC News,
“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?'” said Ohlhorst. “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.”
Because of the dog and unrest among passengers, the flight was cancelled.
While some passengers made other flight arrangements, many on board, in a show of support for Rizzi and his service dog, all boarded a bus for the 3 and a half-hour commute.
“These people, all of them, got on a bus and drove 3 and a half hours from Philadelphia,” Rizzi said. “They could have stayed on the plane, but they chose not to. I’m so humbled.”