A black man is suing American Airlines for discrimination after he was removed from a connecting flight from Phoenix to Austin, Texas.
The incident reportedly took place on April 14th after passenger Dana Holcomb complained about being seated next to a fellow passenger’s support dog in first class.
According to USA Today, the problem started when Holcomb alerted the flight crew that he was allergic to dogs.
According to American Airlines, he was removed from the connecting flight after “all attempts to accommodate Mr. Holcomb” were made.
Eyewitnesses claimed that Holcomb and the passenger initially tried to resolve the issue themselves by asking other passengers in first class to switch seats, but the captain and flight crew allegedly intervened and asked Holcomb to move to a seat towards the back of the plane.
Holcomb maintains that he was never confrontational but simply asked why he had to be moved from first class to the back of the aircraft after he suffered an allergic reaction.
That interaction led to the captain calling security to have him removed from the plane.
Holcomb’s attorney, Reginald McKamie announced the lawsuit at a press conference on Tuesday saying “Dana was taken off an airplane so a dog could fly the first-class cabin.”
“What American Airlines is doing is discrimination,” McKamie added. “They have repeatedly humiliated African American citizens by throwing them off the plane, leaving them with no way home, leaving them with no hotels, just throwing them off the plane.”
In a statement to USA TODAY, American Airlines spokesperson LaKesha Brown said: “In the case of an allergy, we work to re-seat a passenger further away from the service or support animal.”
“The crew offered to move the customer with the support animal to another seat in the first-class cabin so Mr. Holcomb could remain in his seat. Mr. Holcomb wasn’t satisfied with that solution, so he was given the option of a seat further away from the service animal in the main cabin with a refund in the difference in fare, which he also declined,” the airline said in a statement.
While the airline claimed it had not yet received the lawsuit, they pointed to the Department of Transportation’s Emotional Support Animal regulations, which states, “Airlines cannot refuse to allow your animal on board because it makes other passengers or flight crew uncomfortable. “