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Philadelphia-to-New York flight canceled over blind man's guide dog

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By The Associated Press
Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, 6:42 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA — A dispute involving a blind man, his guide dog and an airline crew led to the cancellation of a flight from Philadelphia to New York, leaving passengers to be sent by bus to their destination.

Albert Rizzi said the argument began Wednesday night when a crew member told him to put his service dog under the seat in front of him as they waited for the US Airways Express flight to leave for Ronkonkoma, N.Y.

He said on Thursday that the flight attendant claimed the dog made an unsafe situation.

“She was very confrontational to the point where her tone was not appreciated,” he said. “I was ripped off the airplane. I was very upset.”

Rizzi said the dog had gotten restless and was curled up beneath his legs.

But flight attendants described the dog as agitated and expressed concern that Rizzi was not controlling it, airline spokeswoman Liz Landau said.

Rizzi became verbally abusive, and the crew decided to remove him, Landau said. That decision caused some of the other 33 travelers to become upset, she said, and the flight was canceled.

US Airways arranged for a bus to drive passengers to Long Island.

Fellow passenger Frank Ohlhorst told WPVI-TV, which first reported the encounter, that Rizzi was not being disruptive.

“We were like, ‘Why is this happening? He's not a problem. What is going on?' ” Ohlhorst said.

Landau said the airline is reviewing how the situation was handled.

Rizzi said he later learned there had been open seats on the plane. The flight attendant “never tried to move me or anybody else to secure the aircraft the way she said it needed to be secured,” he said.

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