Blind Man and Guide Dog's Removal from Flight Sparks Outrage – and Solidarity – Among Passengers

Blind Man and Guide Dog Kicked off Flight
Albert Rizzi and his guide dog, Doxy

updated 11/16/2013 at 05:30 PM EST

originally published 11/15/2013 12:00PM

Albert Rizzi, who is legally blind, was booted from a US Airways plane at Philadelphia International Airport Wednesday night after his guide dog, Doxy, became restless during a flight delay. Fortunately for the Long Island man, fellow passengers jumped to his defense.

"I cannot believe this," Rizzi posted on his Facebook page Thursday.

"I was removed from the plane that I was supposed to be on to go home from Philadelphia because my dog couldn't sit in a spot for an hour and a half on the tarmac such a joke. So now I am in Philadelphia trying to figure out what I'm going to do to get home. I have never been so annoyed flying US Airways all year and this is the way the stewardess' [treat me]!"

In a statement to ABC 6, US Airways said that Rizzi "became disruptive and refused to comply with crew member instructions when the flight attendant asked him to secure his service dog at his feet." The company added, "As a result of his disruptive behavior, the crew returned to the gate and removed Mr. Rizzi and his service dog from the flight."

By one witness's account, everyone on board seemed sympathetic to Rizzi's situation and voiced their support.

"When we, the passengers, realized what was going on, we were, like, 'Why is this happening? He's not a problem. What is going on?'" Frank Ohlhorst told ABC 6. "And we all kind of raised our voices and said, 'This is a real problem.' The captain came out of the cockpit and he basically asked us all to leave the aircraft."

The flight was canceled and Rizzi, Doxy and the flight's other passengers were transported to Long Island via bus.

Rizzi told ABC 6 he appreciated the solidarity of his fellow flyers.

"These people, all of them, got on a bus and drove 3 and a half hours from Philadelphia," he said. "They could have stayed on the plane, but they chose not to. I'm so humbled."

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