A blind woman from Maine says she won’t be flying American Airlines anytime soon after the legacy carrier allegedly failed to accommodate her service dog.
Sue Martin, a 61-year-old legally blind woman from Franklin, Maine, claims that she and her German Shepherd were recently removed from an American flight after being told they posed a “danger to the safety” of the aircraft.
Martin, along with her guide dog Quan and husband Jim, were en route from Maine to Calif. on March 1. They were boarding a connecting flight from Washington, D.C., to Dallas when Martin noticed that her seat, located in the bulkhead aisle, would not be able to accommodate her dog.
“There was not enough room for a 75-pound dog and three adult humans,” Martin told WLBZ.
Martin claims a flight attendant then denied her request to switch seats, and that when she asked again, she was told to leave the plane and speak with a ticketing agent.
Once she was back in the airport terminal, Martin said the American ticketing agent also denied her request to change seats, and even refused to allow her to upgrade, telling her that service animals were not allowed in first class, reports The Portland Press Herald.
Martin says she knew that there's no rule against service animals in first class — she’s owned service animals since she was 28 — but she re-boarded the aircraft anyway. Upon re-entering, she says a man in first class offered up his seat, which she gladly accepted.
But soon, an American Airlines employee informed Martin that she was being removed from the flight.
“I asked him why, and he said the crew had decided I was a danger to the safety of the flight,” she said.
“I stood up, reached for Quan’s harness, and almost began to cry,” Martin explained. “This is just so far out of the realm of anything I have ever experienced in all of my years of travel.
“I felt helpless, I felt afraid. Terrified.”
On the way out, Martin claims her husband asked the pilot why they were being booted, to which the pilot replied, “Because I can.”
The couple eventually rebooked on a United Airlines flight leaving from a different airport.
A spokesperson for American Airlines tells Fox News that they're currently investigating the situation.
"We apologize to Ms. Martin for the recent experience she had on American Airlines," said the spokesperson. "We take these allegations very seriously, and are thoroughly investigating.
"We are also in contact with Ms. Martin to gather additional details of what transpired during her recent journey with us."
American Airlines has no posted guidelines against service animals in first class, although they stipulate that all animals must be well-behaved and able to “fit on your lap, at your feet or under your seat.”
AA's spokesperson also confirmed to Fox News that service animals are welcome on "all of our flights," and that the company encourages team members to train with service dogs.
"American is also a proud supporter of the Puppies in Flight (PIF) program. In conjunction with Assistance Dogs International (ADI), our team members volunteer to become trained to work with assistance dogs and take them on transports and test flights — short turnaround trips. This helps acclimate service animals to air travel."
Martin, however, isn’t likely to set foot on another American Airlines flight in the near future.
“Certainly, I deserve an apology,” she tells WLBZ. “Some reassurance that American will better train its personnel is the only way I will feel comfortable getting on another American Airlines flight.
“I mean, if they can kick a blind person off a flight, whose dog is being perfectly behaved, what can they do next? I don’t know.”
American Airlines' investigation into the matter in ongoing.