12-year-old Bryant Weasel has Dravet Syndrome, which is a rare form of epilepsy in which he experiences frequent and prolonged seizures. His service dog helps him prepare for an oncoming seizure, so he can get to safety.
Chug, Bryant’s 110-pound service dog, is trained to alert his family when he suffers from a seizure and comfort him while he experiences the debilitating episode.
But American Airlines didn’t want such a “big” dog on their plane...
Bryant and Chug had loved their first-ever visit to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. But during their return flight home on Thanksgiving Day, Bryant and his service dog, who was given to the family a year ago by a charity when his last dog suddenly died, were kicked out of the airplane while seated next to Bryant’s parents and his older sister…
When a flight attendant from PSA Airlines, a regional airline owned by American Airlines, saw Chug she argued that the dog was too large to travel, even questioning whether Chug was a legitimate service dog or not.
Because the incident further tarnished their poor reputation, American Airlines has apologized for the incident and offered the family discounts on future flights.
Bryant was on the plane because his parents had decided to take him on vacation so he could see the beach for the first time in his life. They choose the week before Thanksgiving because summer temperatures are too hot for Bryant, who is unable to sweat and therefore gets overheated in the sun.
The 12-year-old had never been on a commercial flight before. His only other time in the air was on air ambulance rides to and from hospitals.“This was the first time we have ever flown with Bryant. We decided we couldn’t keep him in a bubble and we wanted to give him the opportunity to see the beach,” Amy Weasel, Bryant’s mother, said.
Because she knew they’d want the dog on the flight, Amy, who is a trained nurse, contacted American Airlines before purchasing tickets to make sure everything would be okay.
The customer service representative said dogs must be able to fit on the lap or under the seat. Chug was too big, but the Weasels were assured it was okay. They gave the Weasels exit row seats so Chug would have room. Their website states that animals are not allowed in exit rows.
“We flew down on November 20 from Evansville, Indiana, to Charlotte then on to Myrtle Beach without any problems,” Weasel, 40, continued.
The PSA flight attendant followed procedure and moved Bryant and Chug to another seat. When Chug couldn’t fit under the seat, she threw them off the plane.
“We tried to get him to go under but he couldn’t fit,” added Mrs Weasel. “I told the attendant: ‘He’s 110lbs, I don’t think he’ll be able to get under there and she said “well, exactly. That’s why you’re not flying on this plane’. She then said: ‘Is he really a service dog, if he was then he would know the command ‘under’ and be trained to go under the seat.’”
American Airlines made the Weasels miss their family Thanksgiving Day dinner.The airline has since issued the following apology: “Our customer relations team has reached out to the family, and had already provided a full refund for their entire journey, and will also reimburse the cost of the rental car. We have notified PSA Airlines, the regional carrier that operated the flight, and they are investigating the matter.”
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