No one should be told that his/her service dog cannot board a plane, but Captain Jason Haag experienced just that when boarding a recent American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Virginia.
Haag and his K9s For Warriors service dog, Axel, traveled to Los Angeles because the pup was named Best Service Dog at The Hero Dog Awards. Upon boarding, Haag and Axel were pulled off the line and interrogated over the service dog’s authenticity. Haag and his family were informed the flight was filled and were not allowed to fly.
Axel supports his owner who has PTSD, who is a former Marine and served two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Furthermore, Axel was wearing his service harness and vest at the time of the incident.
On his Facebook page, Haag wrote: “We are unable to fly today due to the unfortunate incident with American Airlines. I can assure you that all rules and regulations were followed. I even called ahead to the airline a week in advance to “register” Axel like I do every time I fly. I had some problems with the disability hotline but was assured we would be able to fly and was given the bulkhead seating to accommodate Axel and I per Service Dog accommodations. We flew out to California with no problems.”
While we may not understand the reasoning of the staff at the time, it’s important to note that specialized training and education for employees on the role of service dogs in any workplace is important.
American Airlines ended up issuing an apology, with this statement: “In this case, the airline did not even follow its own guidelines. We call upon the company to reimburse the costs endured by Captain Haag in the course of this regrettable action, and on all airlines to better train their staff…American has a long and proud history of serving our military members, and hold the men and women who serve our country in the highest regard.” We hope to see this standard upheld in the future for all service dogs and their humans.
But, Haag refuses to let this incident get him and Axel down. “We plan to use this incident to educate and spread further awareness about service dogs, Veterans, and people with disabilities.”
For more pupdates on Jason Haag and Axel, visit their Facebook page.