American Airlines

American Airlines apologizes to blind woman removed from plane

Sue Martin and her service dog, Quan.
Sue Martin and her service dog, Quan. Photo

American Airlines has apologized to a blind woman from Maine who was kicked off of a flight earlier this month after officials said that she and her guide dog posed a safety risk.

The Fort Worth-based airline said it is still investigating the March 1 incident involving Sue Martin and her 75-pound German shepherd guide dog, Quan.

“We apologize to Ms. Martin for the recent experience she had on American Airlines,” wrote Ross Feinstein, senior manager for corporate communications with American Airlines, in an email to the Star-Telegram. “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.”

He added that service animals are welcome on all of American’s flights.

Martin and Quan, along with Martin’s husband, were on a flight from Washington, D.C., Ronald Reagan Airport to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, bound for a vacation in San Diego.

Martin said she was told to sit in the bulkhead row, but there wasn’t enough room on the floor in front of her seat for her dog and three passengers.

Martin said in an interview Thursday that she asked to be moved to a seat with more room for her dog and that the flight crew refused her request.

I was kicked off of the plane. I had no choice. If I would have resisted further, I have no doubt that they would have put me in jail.

Sue Martin, a passenger on an American Airlines flight to Dallas

A passenger sitting in first class voluntarily gave up his seat for Martin, but airline officials told her she could not sit in first class, and that she and her dog were a safety risk to other passengers, Martin said.

“I was kicked off of the plane. I had no choice. If I would have resisted further, I have no doubt that they would have put me in jail,” Martin said.

Martin, 61, said she has been a dog handler for more than 30 years and has never been asked to leave a plane because of her guide dog.

She said American violated two provisions of the federal Air Carrier Access Act — first, when the flight crew did not accommodate her by giving her a seat with more room for her dog, and also when the airline didn’t allow her to speak to a complaint resolution officer after being removed from the plane.

Feinstein declined to comment on those allegations.

Martin said she was rebooked on another airline that left from another airport, so she and her husband had to spend $80 on cab fare. She said she received an apology from customer service, but wants an apology from top officials at American, along with reimbursement for her cab fare.

Martin said she was traveling to California to take part in a disability conference, C-SUN, where she gave a presentation on how she used crowd funding to create software that helps blind people who also have difficulty using their hands.

Martin said she did not have issues with American on her return flight, but that she was apprehensive and nervous.

“I was terrified because I had to go home and didn’t know what would happen,” Martin said.

Elizabeth Campbell: 817-390-7696, @fwstliz

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