american airlines disabled veteran

American Airlines Hassled, Humiliated Disabled Veteran And Her Service Dog, According To Lawsuit

American Airlines hassled and humiliated a disabled veteran because she was trying to board a flight with her service dog, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court this week.

As WLOX (Biloxi) reports, Army veteran Lisa McCombs of Diamondhead, Mississippi, was attempting to board a flight from Manhattan, Kansas on an American Airlines affiliate airline, American Eagle, before ultimately heading home to Gulfport. With her, as always, was her seven-year-old chocolate lab, “Jake.” Lisa, who has been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, uses Jake as a service animal to help her with her disabilities from PTSD.

Jake is trained to pick up on when Lisa is experiencing increased levels of stress and anxiety. And at that particular Kansas airport on October 25, Lisa did, in fact, begin experiencing anxiety, she says, thanks to the actions of the American Airlines gate attendant. Specifically, she says, the agent made a joke about the dog flying with her, according to the lawsuit.

“Ummm, are you flying with that?”

McCombs says the agent then asked for her photo I.D., which she provided, and then asked for her “documentation.” In fact, claims Lisa, Jake is a “medical alert” service dog, which doesn’t require documentation. However, American Airlines staff that day were not prepared to believe Lisa’s side of the story, instead arguing with her.

Specifically, she claims in her suit, American Airlines employees were openly hostile to her and made jokes about her disability and her service animal, saying such things as “What is your disability anyway?” and “What service does he provide you?”

“A crazy, obnoxious situation took place – arguing back and forth, humiliation, harassment and ultimately my flight was denied. The whole situation perpetuated my disability. It sent me into crisis mode.”

Fortunately, Jake was right there, and was trained for just this type of situation. Sensing Lisa was in trouble, Jake did exactly what he was trained to do and comforted his owner.

“He comes to me, presses his body tightly against me, licks my face. He’s a calming mechanism for me to be able to cope with my disability. So he did exactly what he was supposed to do.”

Despite Jake coming to her aid, the disabled veteran was still left stranded in a strange airport, hundreds of miles from home, with an airline unwilling to accommodate her and her service animal.

The following day, McCombs tried again to board an American Airlines flight home. This time, she says, an agent was so rude to her that even Jake began getting upset.

“You need to step back from me. Clearly you are upsetting my dog, you’re upsetting me, and you’re harassing me. It is against the law to harass a service animal and their handler and I will call the police on you.”

Finally, two days after she was originally scheduled to fly home, McCombs was able to secure a flight on Delta Airlines, which promised to welcome her and her service dog. Unfortunately, it came at a huge cost to her; in addition to having to fork up $500 for last-minute airfare, she also had to rent a car and drive two hours away to Kansas City.

Since word of Lisa’s experiences reached management at American Airlines, the airline has apologized and promised to do “whatever it takes” to make things right. The disabled veteran has promised to consult with her attorney before deciding how American Airlines can follow through on that promise.

[Featured Image by Glynnis Jones/Shutterstock]