American Airlines issued an apology last Monday after forcing a family out of a plane traveling with a service dog deemed 'too large'.
Amy Jo Weasel was then traveling with her 11-year old son diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, and his son's service dog Chug, a 110-pound golden doodle specially trained for assisting seizure patients. The flight was taking off from Charlotte Douglas International on Thanksgiving Day.
Weasel, her son and Chug were already seated on the plane when an attendant asked Weasel to move to another seat because of the dog. Then, Weasel was asked to put the dog under the seat. Chug, at 110 pounds, couldn't fit in and could only stay on the aisle.
"You could tell right away from her demeanor, her attitude, and her body language that she did not like animals," Weasel says.
This was when the attendant got in touch with management. A higher-up representative of the company then came over to ask the Weasel family to get off the plane.
Weasel then explained she has made arrangements with American Airlines prior to the flight, and has presented a medical statement of the need to bring Chug on the flight because of her son's severe epilepsy. Weasel also says she has traveled with her son and Chug on three American Airlines flights previously without problems, with the prior arrangements made.
Weasel adds, "For someone to just be able to kick you off and deny you access is completely ridiculous."
American Airlines has since apologized to the Weasel family. "We are aware of this issue and apologize to the passenger... Our customer relations team is reaching out to the passenger directly. We are looking into the issue with PSA Airlines, the regional carrier who operated that flight," an American Airlines spokesperson says. The airline also offered a $150 voucher to compensate for the incident.
Weasel is not sure if the $150 voucher is enough to cover for what has happened, but she says it is in her highest hopes that American Airlines will hire more compassionate people, and that "nobody else will have to go through this."
Weasel's son is diagnosed with Drave Syndrome, a rare genetic epileptic dysfunction of the brain. It affects 1 in 20,000- 40,000 people worldwide, and 3-8% manifest signs as early as 12 months old. Aside from severe seizures, Drave Syndrome patients have low motor tone, and suffer from unsteady walking, slow developmental growth, chronic infections and autonomic nervous system dysfunctions.