The cliché is true. Unless we learn from the mistakes of others, we are doomed to repeat them.
Southwest Airlines is making headlines for dragging a woman off a flight from Baltimore to Los Angeles. The woman complained she had a “deadly allergy” to dogs onboard and demanded the removal of one service dog and one emotional support dog.
Her request was refused so she demanded an injection from FAs to alleviate her allergic symptoms. FAs noted a medical certificate was required for them to administer an injection, but the captain offered her the chance to step off the plane, receive the injection from qualified medical personnel, then take the flight.
The woman refused.
That certainly left Southwest in a difficult position. It is compelled under law to accommodate passengers with special needs – including those with service animals, emotional support pets, and those with allergies.
Fearing a potential midair diversion, Southwest made the decision to remove the woman. I support that decision, though arguably it could have sought to place the service animals in the front and the woman in the back. Then again, she refused any sort of compromise (like stepping off the plane to administer her shot), thus presenting the crew with reasonable concern she would be a danger to herself or others in-flight.
The Removal Goes Horribly Wrong
She did not take the news well and after repeated attempts to coax her off the flight failed, law enforcement was called to remove her.
What followed was this—
Another dragging incident. And don’t you love (read: despise) how a FA admonishes passengers not to record it?
Ok, how about a genuine apology for dragging this woman off the plane rather than finding another way—even if it mean deplaning everyone else—to remove her? Nope. This was the initial response:
Our policy states that a customer (without a medical certificate) may be denied boarding if they report a life-threatening allergic reaction and cannot travel safely with an animal on board. Our flight crew made repeated attempts to explain the situation to the customer, however, she refused to deplane and law enforcement became involved.
Again, is there no other way to coax a woman off a plane than dragging? It appears she was suffering a panic attack.
That’s not all she’s suffering–
The woman was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, failure to obey a reasonable and lawful order, disturbing the peace, obstructing and hindering a police officer, and resisting arrest. She was transported to the Anne County Court Commissioner before she was released on her own recognizance, police said.
Southwest Response, Take Two
It does seem Southwest has learned something. They’ve now issued a much more sensitive statement.
We are disheartened by the way this situation unfolded and the customer’s removal by local law enforcement officers. We publicly offer our apologies to this customer for her experience, and we will be contacting her directly to address her concerns.
I get why some of you would defend Southwest here. The plane was full of passengers, some with onward connections. Delays have a ripple effect that can disturb travel for hundreds. But goodness, she was just clearly a troubled woman in need of help. There had to be another way to get her off the airplane.
Southwest probably made the right call in concluding she was not fit to fly. But Southwest failed by once again resorting to law enforcement as a personal bouncer. I thought we had learned something from the Dao incident…