Kicked off a flight because of a dogfight

This flight went to the dogs. / Photo by Jden Red - Flickr
Mention the word “pets” and “planes” and it’s enough to start a dogfight.

That’s exactly what happened to Marilyn Bruno, who was flying from Miami to Boston on American Airlines recently. Bruno is allergic to dogs — technically, it’s a class 3 allergy, which is relatively mild and doesn’t require her to travel with an epinephrine pen.

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When she boarded flight 452, she found an unexpected passenger had joined her.

I was getting ready to sit down in seat 14A when I heard the barking of a dog under my seat.

I stood up and told the young man and woman sitting in seats 15A and 15B that I was allergic to their dog because I immediately felt the first symptoms of an allergy attack.

I rang for the flight attendant to change my seat.

The dog owners started laughing and shouting loudly to the other passengers how cute their dog was and how it would not hurt anyone.

Uh-oh. A crewmember tried to separate the feuding passengers.

The flight attendant changed my seat to 10B, which I thanked her for. I said I was going to take a Claritin, but would have starting taking it the day before if I had known a dog was going to be on board.

She explained that the owners paid for the dog in the cabin and there was no policy to warn passengers.

I thanked the flight attendant again for changing my seat and told her that I had an epinephrine pen (Epipen) with me, so I expected no problems even in the event of an allergy attack.

Problem solved? Unfortunately, no. In fact, things were about to get much worse. I’ll let Bruno explain.

The flight attendant went somewhere and came back saying that Claritin was not enough.

She asked to see the Epipen, which I voluntarily showed her.

I told her that my allergy was classified as a Class 3, and that my doctor had assured me that there was no need for an Epipen even in the event of a dog allergy.

The flight attendant became very agitated, as if I had shown her a lethal weapon.

She left and came back with a man and two women from the terminal. One of the women, told me that I had to get off the plane and that she would get me on the next flight, which left at 10 a.m.

Bruno told the trio that was unnecessary, and that she was medically fit to fly. Also, she had an 11 a.m. meeting in Boston, which she would miss.

At that point, the airline representatives accused her of delaying the flight’s departure (Bruno says passengers were still boarding the flight). They threatened to have her arrested if she did not disembark the flight immediately.

“I said that I had important meetings in Boston that I could not reschedule, that this treatment was discriminatory,” she says. “Rather than listen to what I was saying, I was physically kicked off [the flight]. Another American Airlines employee who had come from the terminal got my carryon bags.”

American eventually rebooked her on another flight and she flew to Boston without incident. But Bruno wants to know if she’s entitled to anything for her hardship.

“I missed being picked up at the airport, and missed the crucially important meeting that had taken over a month to set up,” she says. “The meeting could not be rescheduled since the principals left Boston, so my subsequent meetings were also cancelled. My entire trip to Boston was a waste of time and money. My meeting has not been rescheduled.”

This is one of those cases where I thought I needed American’s side of the story before I wrote anything about it — even if the end result is that I couldn’t mediate it. I asked the airline to review its record from the flight. It hasn’t responded.

Strictly speaking, American fulfilled its end of the bargain. Its contract of carriage requires that it transport Bruno from Miami to Boston, which it did.

Just hearing her side of the story, it sounds as if American made several mistakes with this incident. Moving Bruno to another seat was the right call, but I wonder where the flight attendant got her M.D. from? And forcing her off the flight — that seems like a TSA tactic, not the behavior of an airline that cares about its customers.

But as I said, I don’t have the full story. Given what we do know, should I advocate for Bruno? And if so, what is she entitled to?

Update (11:30 a.m.): Received this update from American Airlines via Twitter: “Thanks for your interest in this issue. The situation was thoroughly investigated and we’ve communicated with the customer.” Sounds like the case is closed, as far as AA is concerned.

178 thoughts on “Kicked off a flight because of a dogfight

  1. You need to find out AA’s side before you mediate.  If they won’t give it to you, then definitely mediate.

    If you have a serious peanut allergy, you’re kind of screwed on any Delta flight.  The way they hand out peanut packs and the dust scatters after you open a pressurized package, it would most likely trigger an episode for someone who is truly sensitive.  But you don’t kick that person off the plane.  You expect that person to be prepared (or, possibly, to not fly Delta – that three-row buffer zone is kind of silly considering the state of recycled air or the fact someone might have to move up and down the aisle to visit the bathroom).

    The OP had an EpiPen and a Claritin.  What more could AA reasonably expect a person with allergies to carry?  And if the OP had been seated elsewhere, she might never have noticed the dog at all, and therefore wouldn’t have been kicked off the plane.

    I do wonder if the OP made a fuss, but honestly, if I had a pet allergy and the airline didn’t inform me I was going to be sitting over one, I’d probably make a bit of a fuss, too.  Airlines should have some sort of system that can notify passengers with allergies when someone pays for a pet fare.  They notify you for all sorts of stuff you don’t want – this should be a no brainer.

    1. This is a case of where the OP wanted to be taken seriously…but just not THAT seriously.  If the allergy is mild and moving was all it was going to take, why on earth would she pull out an epi?  I think the FA played it about the only way they sensibly could–they don’t want a medical emergency at cruising altitude.  

      But I’ve always wondered what people with serious allergies were supposed to do on planes. I’ve always found it comical how my kid’s school won’t even serve peanut putter in the cafeteria, but peanuts can still be the primary snacks on an enclosed tube where people sit on top of each other.

      1. why on earth would she pull out an epi

        Because she could have been arrested for disobeying a crew member’s instruction to produce it?

        Notice that she only mentioned it in the first place in the context of thanking the FA for changing her seat and assuring her that she was well-prepared even for an unlikely worst-case scenario.

        So many comments are assuming that the OP unnecessarily alarmed the FA.  Isn’t just as possible that the FA was already alarmed and the OP tried (unsuccessfully / counter-productively) to re-assure her?

        1. The FA only knew about the epi because the passenger told them about it.  

          “I thanked the flight attendant again for changing my seat and told her that I had an epinephrine pen (Epipen) with me, so I expected no problems even the event of an allergy attack.”

          Now, it if went just as the OP relays it here, I think the FA overreacted.  But if it’s a minor allergy, why do they feel the need to share with the FA that they have special medication with them that they’re not even required to have?  Maybe they were just trying to convey that they were prepared for anything, but if I’m the FA and first hear that it’s no big deal, but then hear talk about epis and possible attacks, I begin to wonder if they’re not pushing their luck to avoid having to take a later flight.  Better safe than sorry in a case like that.

          1. So, is it the opinion here – not just you, but almost everyone throughout this thread – that if a passenger demonstrates – through words or action – that there is a possibility of some sort of medical reaction/emergency/whatever, then they shouldn’t be allowed to fly?

  2. This passenger overplayed her cards and the end result was the flight crew having a legitimate worry for her safety and the airlines’s liability in the event of a serious allergic reaction. She mentioned and showed an epi pen for a dog allergy? That points to a serious allergy, and if the flight crew had allowed her to fly and there was a problem, American could have been sued for negligence, and i doubt a passenger with this kind of attitude would hesitate for a second before suing. I think AA made the right call to accommodate this passenger on a later flight.

    1. Totally agree – the flight crew is responsible for the safety of the flight and all those on board.  If she had an allergy attack and needed the Epipen, the flight would most likely have been forced to land at the nearest airport for her to seek proper medical treatment.   An Epipen can stop anaphalaxis, but further treatment is necessary AND if she needed to use it, that means that the allergy source was strong enough to trigger an attack, so the OP would have to be completely removed from the source.

      AA made the right call — if in doubt, error on the side of safety.

    2. Maybe she was hoping for a bump to FC…and somehow I doubt she was very calm during the entire ordeal. Especially if her “meeting” was so drastatically important!

    3. Brian, I came here to say the same thing. I also think Mrs Bruno’s accounts of that day seriously underplay her actions in the decision to remove her from the flight. I can’t imagine if the dog owner was making a huge scene and laughing and shouting loudly they would choose her to be removed from the flight vs the other parties. 

      1. I’m getting the same vibe as you off of the OP, based on the language and tone of her emails that were quoted. I have a feeling she had an attitude with the flight attendant, who took her seriously (and almost certainly knew in the back of her head that it wasn’t THAT serious). I am guessing that she got what she deserved and the crew and passengers that heard her had a good laugh once she was off the plane.

        I also think that AA’s lack of response is pretty telling. They most likely don’t want to put in writing the OP’s rude behavior and/or open the potential for a lawsuit. I have the feeling, just like others have posted, that she is the type who is always looking for a “settlement.” We have a commercial here in Chicago for a personal injury firm that actually states, and I am quoting, to call them to find out “what’s your case worth.”

    4. There is nothing in AA’s contract which warns that passengers won’t be allowed to fly with an Epi-Pen or an allergy.

      If the passenger both: (1) attested to being medically fit to fly in her new seat and (2) demonstrated (upon the FA’s demand) that she was well-equipped and prepared to respond to any eventuality then that ought to have been the end of it.

      If AA still wanted to err on the side of caution (for legal or safety reasons), that’s certainly their prerogative, but then they should own the ramifications of that decision and offer the OP something for her inconvenience.  She committed no wrongdoing and adhered to her side of the contract.

  3. Sometimes a little discretion goes a long way. I would’ve just told the FA that I had a “slight” allergy to pets, nothing serious. The same as if I didn’t feel well on a cruise. I’d NEVER go to the ship’s doctor unless it was an emergency. But the FA’s behavior is strange. I’m wondering if the OP didn’t say something to lead the FA to believe that her allergy was indeed more serious than she stated to Chris. If she had said, “I get the sniffles when I’m near dogs”, I’m sure the FA wouldn’t have thought to ask anything more. Without AA’s side, this one is a tough one to mediate. I’m not sure she’s due anything, either way, to be honest.

    1. You make an excellent point.  I thought her using the term “class 3 allergy” was a little technical.  Given FAs are not in the medical field, using that term might have set off warning bells.  Also, carrying an epipen might have alarmed them as well.

      If I recall correctly, didn’t the OP say she didn’t even need the epipen?  If not, why was she carrying one?  I’m a layman so my hearing someone needs/has an epipen causes me to believe the allergy is more serious.

      1. I’m not a subject-matter expert, but generally, I think being over-prepared (rather than just-prepared or under-prepared) should be looked upon as a virtue (not as something we then use against the person.)

        1. In most instances, I agree with you 100%.  However, there’s being over-prepared and there’s bringing a gun to a knife fight.

          I’m one of those who “over-prepares” when I travel, packing for every single scenario.  But it’s not this person over preparing that was the sticking point with me; she can carry an Epipen all she wants.  It’s no skin off my nose.

          My speculation in this is, she was trying to convince the FA she really did have things under control and might have overstated things in her quest to gain not sympathy, as I don’t believe she was looking for sympathy at all but understanding, but to express to the FA she really DID know what was going on.  The FA, in their quest to over react to the most minor of infractions (as they are wont to do in out overly litigious society – so who can blame them, really?) did what FAs do.

          I’m afraid I’m not explaining this very well.  The thought’s in my head but with my mind on other writing I need to do today, it’s hard to switch gears…

        2. There’s also a difference between preparing for the worst versus bragging about preparing for the worst. It’s easy to scare the crap out of people when you do the latter, and I suspect that’s what happened here.

          The OP may have only wished to convey they were prepared even for a remote possibility but the FA took their major preparations as a sign that it was a high probability event.  

          1. As long as we’re speculating: The OP may well have already “scared the cr*p” out of the FA just by asking for a seat change, and was merely trying (unsuccessfully) to re-assure her.

            I can sympathize with the flight crew for being put in the un-enviable position of making difficult judgements like this that are beyond their expertise.  

            Regardless, if the OP declared herself fit and well-prepared to fly (even with a dog on board), then this was purely AA’s decision and they ought to own that decision, not blame the OP for mentioning or for carrying an EpiPen.  And (IMO) something for the OP’s inconvenience is warranted (though not necessarily anything extra because she missed a business meeting). 

          2. Dammit Jim, I’m a flight attendant, not a doctor!  (Sorry, I just had to use that!)

            The FAs aren’t doctors and only know what they’re told and what they observe with their own eyes. And the contradiction between “it’s minor” and “here’s my special medication  in case I have an attack on this flight” without a doubt played a part in making this decision. That’s not “blaming” the OP, it’s simply acknowledging the information they had to work from.

            They can take a person at their word only up to the point where they doubt that word. After that, they need to do the math on how many people get inconvenienced if something goes wrong. Here, it amounted to one person having their schedule messed up versus a possible in-flight medical emergency and everybody’s schedules being messed up.

            Did they overreact?  Maybe. But I’m certain what they wanted to hear when they moved the OP was “Thanks, my allergies are minor, everything is okay now.” Instead, they got talk of emergency medications and possible attacks in flight. If the OP thought that was almost certainly not going to happen, they shouldn’t have mentioned it. 

          3. And I think THIS is what I was actually trying to get across, rather unsuccessfully.

            BTW – Dammit Jim, I’m a flight attendant, not a doctor!

            Good one!

          4. Again, being prepared for an unlikely worst case should be a virtue — not grounds to open the door for the flight crew to “doubt” you and reach their own assumptions about things they (likely) have no expertise in.

            If they asked her and she didn’t have an EpiPen, then I bet we’d have lots of second-guessers who would criticize her for NOT having one.

            The crew does have the prerogative to refuse transport to anyone.  But in that case they should own the decision and not make any excuses (e.g. “the passenger made me do it because her EpiPen alarmed me.”)

          5. I see where you’re coming from, but again there’s a difference between being prepared and how you convey your preparation to people.  Doing it poorly can have the opposite effect of what you want.

            On routine approach I don’t want the pilot making the announcement “Wanted you all to know that I’m totally ready to handle things if our landing gear should fail to deploy.”


          6. Problem with the pilot analogy is that you’re invoking a basic job skill.  

            Better analogy is if the pilot has an allergy.

    2. I find it hard to believe that a doctor would prescribe an epi-pen when it wasn’t necessary. Epi-pens are generally only prescribed to people who have had anaphylaxis in the past, or people who doctors consider very likely to have it. Now maybe the epi-pen is actually for a different allergy, like food, but the complications from using an epi-pen when it is not needed are such that most doctors won’t give them out for allergies that aren’t severe enough to warrant it. 

      Certainly telling the FA about it went too far. It made her allergy seem much more severe than it really was which caused the removal from the plane. But I do think that without AA’s side we can’t decide if mediation is warranted.

  4. I think Ms. Bruno needs a bit more understanding of what a class 3 allergy is.  It means she will probably always have an allergic reaction when exposed to a dog.  But it does not mean she will have an
    anaphylaxic reaction – even if the dog sat in her lap the entire flight .  If she has managed to get to adulthood without ever having a serious reaction beyond the “normal” allergy symptoms, then it would be incredibly unlikely to have one on the flight.  If she does have a history of serious distress when exposed to dogs, then I think she would have gotten off the plane voluntarily immediately.  By flashing the epipen, she was telling the flight attendant to plan for an emergency landing.

    For instance, I have a class 3 allergy to peanuts.  I always have a reaction when I eat them.  The reaction I get is red hands and face and I get a little itchy.  This reaction doesn’t really change that much in severity no matter how many peanuts I eat but it always happens.  An allergy does not mean anaphylaxis no matter how intense the exposure is.  

    Her actions (or rather, over-reaction) caused the airline to treat her the same way as if she said she was having chest pains or labor contractions.  I say don’t mediate, the airline fulfilled their duty.

    1. “By flashing the epipen, she was telling the flight attendant to plan for an emergency landing.”

      According to the story, the OP did not flash the pen.  The FA came by later and asked to see the pen and the OP showed her as requested.

      1.  The OP was the one who brought up the pen.  And yes, that wold have been a reasonable assumption since the OP was making a point of mentioning it.

      2. The people I know that carry epipens fall into 2 categories: 1) people that have had a previous life-threatening occurrence of anaphalaxis 2) hypochondriacs.

        The airline was acting in the best interest of their passenger.

        Whether or not she showed it to them or just told them about it, she indicated she could very well have a life-threatening incident if she remained on the plane. Why she would even consider staying on the plane if her life was threatened by it remains a mystery to me.  Unless her allergy was far less severe than she indicated (which I suspect is the case).

        1. Kelly,
                 I had an epipen for awhile although I only carried it to my allergy shots. Allergy Drs will now script them to anyone with an ID’ed allergy for defensive medicine since any allergy can escalate to anaphylaxis at any point (according to my daughter’s allergist).  If you see someone with more than one, they’ve had anaphylaxis.

          1. This,

            I have a severe reaction to bee and wasp stings. I carry an epipen in my car, I have one at work (not that we have bees at work but you never know when one will fly in an open door), one at home and I carry one in my purse. I’m also diligent about alerting my apartment complex maintenance when I see a wasp nest around the complex.

            I do this because if I get stung and don’t use the pen within minutes, I will die. I’m kinda thinking the OP was overreacting by carrying an epipen.

    2. Are we reading the same article?

      I thanked the flight attendant again for changing my seat and told her that I had an epinephrine pen (Epipen) with me, so I expected no problems even the event of an allergy attack.

      That doesn’t sound like an over-reaction to me.  She was satisfied with her new seat and prepared to fly and tried to re-assure the FA.  

      Perhaps her efforts to re-assure the FA had the opposite effect.  That doesn’t make Ms. Bruno the one who doesn’t understand what a class 3 allergy is.

      1. Using an epipen is not as casual as taking a Benedryl. It is a temporary lifesaving measure for someone experiencing anaphalaxis that requires emergency follow-up care.  It’s not something you take to make you fell better – it’s something you inject to prolong your life until you get to the emergency room.  The OP’s non-chalant response of “No-worries, you can just make an emergency landing and have some paramedics meet us on the tarmac after I inject myself,” was not an appropriate response to the FA any more than making a bomb threat.

        1. You again mis-characterize the OP’s words (which I quoted for you).

          And if carrying an EpiPen is such a danger sign that it is akin to making a bomb threat, then maybe AA’s contract ought to prohibit any passengers with EpiPen’s (though as TonyA points out, that would probably be discriminatory and illegal)

          If carrying an EpiPen on board is permitted, then you shouldn’t need to hide it.   Telling a crew member that you are carrying one just in case isn’t justification for crew members to panic.

          1. Where to start….its discriminatory, illegal, violation of the ADA….

            As someone else posted—Epipens are used as treatment to an allergic reaction…its not a temporary fix for you to be rushed to the ER.  Its a form of treatment because a benadryl/claritin takes time to work in the body.  The epi pen treats right away. 

            To compare this…look at a related condition of astham… can take daily preventative medication such as singulair or advair amount others  but that medication doesnt prevent an instant reaction asthma attack….which is why you should carry some inhaler with you always.

          2. Excellent point.

            Yes, you’re allowed to bring a nail file on board our planes, as long as you don’t actually show it to us. If you mention the nail file, you’l have to leave the plane.

      2. Michael, what is a class 3 allergy and what are its implications? I can’t seem to find anything in google.

        1. I’m no subject-matter expert. 

          What I was able to find quickly is that the score is from 0 to 6 and based on this test:

          3 is considered a “high allergy”, whereas 4 & 5 are “very high” and 6 is “extremely high”.

          Seems that the scores represent moment-in-time probabilities and there are no guarantees even if your RAST score is low.  

    3. I ate and loved softshell crab for years with only the reaction you get to peanuts…until it suddenly got worse. Although I was still able to breathe, I had to take a good dose of Benadryl and I have not eaten the dish again. One never really knows when one’s sensitivity will finally go beyond the brink.

      1. I was having breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn at FCO and tried a green pear that looked delicious. Suddenly, my lips felt they were swelling, my throat itched and my breathing felt a bit weird (like very minor chocking). Luckily my Mom had an anti-histamine tablet in her purse and that helped. Proof that you never know what will kill ya.

  5. While not commenting specifically on the reasons for being kicked off, I don’t think American owes her anything *extra* simply because she missed the “critically important meeting”  that took “months” to arrange.  If the meeting was that important, she should have flown in the day before, to allow for more time to recover from travel delays.  Any number of things could have delayed this flight and caused her to miss the meeting – had it been weather, mechanical issue, etc, it would have had the same result.  So I don’t think this should get her any extra sympathy points.

    1.  I think they do owe her.  It’s one thing had it been mechanical issues, then it would be her fault.  This, however, was clearly solely AA’s fault. 

      If, since AA won’t respond, what she says is true, they brought a dog on board and then started shouting at her.  The one and ONLY reason a dog should be allowed in a tiny airplane where people don’t always like each others pets, is a service animal.  If it is a service animal and they’re acting like jerks, THEY should be removed from the flight. 

      Regardless, it doesn’t get her extra sympathy points, but she no longer needed to make the trip.  They owe her her ticket, and other travel costs.  That’ll teach AA to be dumb enough to let pets fly since I’m pretty sure this wasn’t a service animal.

      1. I disagree, Mrs Bruno made a huge stink about being allergic to dogs, mentioning ‘immediate allergy symptoms’ and mentioned she should have taken Claratin the day before if she was going to be around pets. AA isn’t her doctor, what they did know is they have a passenger self-admittedly having allergy symptoms they knew they couldn’t accommodate her on that flight and put her on the next flight. I think their actions were appropriate. 

        The lesson here is, don’t be overly dramatic about your situation to garner sympathy. Had she simply said to the FA, “I have some allergy issues being near pets, is it possible to move?” There was no need to involve the passenger with the pet. Part of being in public is dealing with things that annoy or you could possibly be allergic to. 

        I don’t think any mediation is necessary. 

        1. If they couldn’t adequately relocate her than I might agree with you.

          Once she was relocated and expressed satisfaction with her new seat and demonstrated that she was well-prepared even for an unexpectedly bad scenario, that should have been the end of it.

          If AA was the only party that wasn’t satisfied at that point, then that becomes *their* choice which they ought to own.

        2.  No, the lesson is don’t allow pets with passengers unless required by law.  Who wants to fly with someone’s non-service animal? 

          The other lesson is not to overreact like AA did.  

      2. But pets ARE allowed to fly in the cabin, whether you like that or not — – and an airline reserves the right to make a decision as to whether or not you can fly, and since she brought up the epi-pen, and they were already aware they had moved her due to the dog, they may have decided this was a bad choice, and decided to put her on a later flight that would be pet-free and less of a medical risk for her. 

        1.  Yes, they made the choice.  Since that choice caused her to miss the sole purpose of her meeting, they owe her a refund. 

          Further, before anybody says she didn’t allow enough time, I agree.  Again, had it been for a reasonable issue that she was delayed, such as mechanical problems, fine.  This was their stupidity and they need to pay.

          On a side note, knowing AA allows non-service animals on a plane will certainly cause me to never fly with them again.  Admittedly, I don’t often fly AA, but this would be the nail in that coffin.

          1. Ah, but they all have to carry “emotional support animals” because of how ADA is written. These animals serve no purpose but as “security blankets” to their “fragile” owners.

            And, most are not properly documented–ie: naughty person downloaded some nonsense on the interwebbs.

            So basically, you’re not flying any airline thanks to these “rule benders” and flargrant liars.

    2. AA 452 is scheduled to arrive in BOS at 10:30am. The slightest hiccup would have made her miss her critical meeting. Even had she arrived on time, I wonder if she would have made it.

      Passenger is full of malarkey and Chris should avoid this with a 10′ pole.

      1. I agree, if this meeting was so critically important, why not fly the night before. I say the airline called her bluff and she lost. 

  6. I think AA treated her appallingly.  Why should she be punished because of someone and their dog!!? Why do the people with the dog count more that her?   A dog got priority over a human being on a flight in which I’m sure the human being at their destination is more important than the dog being at theirs.  

      1. But airlines DO allow animals in the cabin, and the dog was not the problem here – her reference to the “class 3” allergy and the use of an epi-pen were – they were being responsible and removing her from a potentially dangerous situation.

        1. To me the dog is the problem.  I admit, I don’t fly as much as some on here, but I have yet to see a dog on a plane.  It would honestly never occur to me as even being a possibility.  To my knowledge, now corrected, they travel in the hold.  Well, mostly, service animals which are far better trained would fly in the cabin. 

      2. Not all animals can go in the cargo area of a plane.  Most carriers have a policy that if it is over 85 degrees in either the departure or arrival city, the animal cannot go in the cargo hold.  A lot of destionations are over that temperature this time of year.  It is not ideal to take an animal on a plane, but sometimes there are circumstances where it is necessary.  It’s also not ideal to take babies on a plane, but sometimes that is necessary too.  You just have to put up with those inconveniences when traveling with the public.

        1. Babies are little humans.  I have no issue with them whatsoever.  They can be annoying, but we’ve all been in the parent’s shoes.  I can think of no reason why you MUST move a pet in a cabin.  Surely they have alternative pet transportation services. 

          Not everyone loves pets and this is a place for people to travel – not animals.  

          1. Actually, service horses (ponies) can be a better value because of their longer life expectancy and if a  disabled person is allergic to dogs..well….

    1. I agree – animals do not belong in the cabin, no matter how cute or whatever – and I am a genuine animal lover, and approaching 2 million miles in the AAdvantage program. I have noted a surge in “therapeutic” dogs being allowed on planes – not dogs clearly trained as guides for the blind, but claimed to serve some claimed psychiatric need of the owner. Somewhere between strapping them to the roof of a car, Romney-style, and allowed into an aircraft cabin, there has to be an alternative.

      If any passenger is offended by an animal, the owner should be offered the alternative of placing the animal in the hold, or both taking a later flight.

      1. The “emotional support animals” are a gimmick. Anyone can go online and print “documentation” that their animal is “necessary.” It’s a way to scam landlords and airlines, nothing more.

        Since the animal isn’t specially trained in any way, there’s no way to really to tell if it is a pet or an “ESA.”

        I read up a lot on this scam after having to sit next to an “emotional support snake” on a flight from ATL to LAX. If you need a snake to keep you sane, stay the hell home!

        1. The ADA actually has a specific clause stating that only dogs are recognized and service animals, and another clause stating that comfort and emotional support animals are not service animals. 

          What gets me is that there are many websites that sell emotional support vests for pets, so anyone can buy them and put them on their pet.  It annoys me to no end that airlines are letting untrained pets on their flights without question because people say they are emotional support pets.  The ADA states that a business cannot ask someone the nature of their disability, so I wonder sometimes if they simply let these people on to avoid potentially asking someone with a legitimate disability.
          These untrained pets labeled as emotional support pets annoys me a lot because I was bitten by one once.  Some woman had her Pomeranian in a vest and said it was an emotional support dog.  When she got up and went to the bathroom it started barking and howling, broke free from its kennel, and bit my shoe and would not let go.  It didn’t actually bite me through the shoe, but it took two FAs to pull the dog off my shoe and then it kept snapping at the FA until the women came back.  Service animals are trained working animals, and know how to handle themselves in public.  Emotional support animals are not. 

          1. Yes, but as I understand the airline (and landlord) rules, they cannot be questioned once the phony paperwork is provided.

            ESAs bug me because while I’m sure there are 1% of legit cases, it has become the new thing to do to avoid fees and/or get what you want–ie: a pet in a non-pet rental.

            The snake was actually taken out of it’s cage by the idiot woman. Fortunately an FA came by and told her in no uncertain terms was the thing to leave it’s carrier. I went back to the restroom and joked with the FA about “I want that m-fing snake off this m-fing plane!”

          2. Time to go Sam Jackson on her!  I was thinking that too, thought I never saw the movie.
            It is illegal to question the passenger/tenant if they have a legitimate issue, but how does one know it’s legitimate?  It’s sort of a catch 22.
            Mrs. Emanon is a licensed Psychologist who practices and teaches.  She said in very clear terms that there is no such thing as a medically recognized emotional support pet.  Should she write a prescription for such, she could lose her license.  She said there is some research looking into it, but currently it’s not a valid form of therapy.   She did mention there are often small lap dogs who are used as seizure detection animals and/or chemical detention animals that recognize if someone’s chemicals go out of balance and remind them to take their medication and they are valid ADA service dogs.  They also have to go through rigorous training so that they behave in public and won’t allow other people/dogs to interfere with their duties. 
            I think sad that people are lying and making up issues to transport pets for free as it diminishes the value of a legitimate need for some.

          3. Agreed. I have a cat that my GF trained to retrieve an asthma inhaler. He’s not a recognized service animal, although I do credit him with saving her life at least once.

            I wouldn’t subject him to travel, though.

        2. I thought the same thing, Raven.  When did the people of this country decide they needed their “woobie” just to get through an average day?

        3. Um, as someone who works with the accessible community, I don’t know if I’m laughing or pissed off at an “emotional support snake.”

          Where’s Sam Jackson when you need him? 😉

        4. >The “emotional support animals” are a gimmick… It’s a way to
          scam landlords and airlines, nothing more.

          It’s also the only way to ensure your pet can travel safely. Shipping pets in the hold is too dangerous. I wouldn’t take my dog on a plane, but I understand why people do it.

          1. Or you could pay the pet fee for the dog to ride in the cabin. By claiming your dog is an “ESA” when it’s not, you’re scamming.

      2. But small pets ARE allowed in the cabin, and the airline did the responsible thing in this case – she referenced her “class 3” allergy and epi-pen, and they were simply avoiding a potential medical problem by moving her to another flight which would have been a better choice for her.

    2. See, I think Mrs Bruno’s actions were appalling. Why should the dog owner be punished because someone has an allergy? The dog owners paid for their seats and $150 for the dog’s ticket as well. Why are they any less entitled to their place on the plane than Mrs Bruno? 
      A plane is a public space, a person with allergies can’t expect to go through life and the public without going into a space with pets. It’s also quite common for dogs and service animals to be on planes. Mrs. Bruno had zero expectation of being in a pet free zone.

      1. Just from reading her side of the story, it does not sound like the Op expected to be in a pet free zone, nor did she say that the pet owners should be punished.  She said that she asked to be moved, which is a reasonable request.  I do think she probably didn’t need to bring up the epipen, as that is most likely what raised the red flag, however I don’t see anything in this story that indicates that her actions were “appaling”.  Now, if she was shouting that the dog owners should be removed, that would be another story.  It doesn’t sound like she is upset that the dog was allowed on the plane – only that she was removed after trying to tell them she would be fine.  I do think by mentioning the epipen that she was probably trying to show that she really did have allergies, and not just being a complainer, but it backfired. 

    3. They weren’t trying to punish her, they were being medically responsible, as this could easily have escalated during the flight into a far bigger problem.  Her bringing up a “class 3” allergy and the epi-pen is what rang those alarm bells for them.

  7. I notice people travelling with dogs all the time. It is reasonable to expect that a dog will be on a flight.

    I would certainly like to hear the other side of the story. From the tone of the OP’s letter I also sense she may have overstated the severity of her allergy to the Flight Attendants, which led to concern on AA’s behalf. 

    I agree with others that if the timing of the flight to coincide with a meeting in Boston was so critical, why schedule it with no room for error? What if there was a maintenance delay…or a passing thunderstorm delayed the flight?

    I’m not an attorney, but I believe not allowing her to fly while letting a passenger with a dog fly is not discriminatory as the OP stated. I don’t think an allergy sufferer is a protected class, but perhaps someone else can weigh in. What would happen if an allergy sufferer and a person with a service animal were booked on the same flight? If they were both protected classes…who doesn’t fly?

    1. Service dogs are dogs. They and their owners should be given bulkhead seats, boarded and disembarked first – and should be accepted on a flight with the carrier’s preparation to relocate offended humans.

    2. LOL, if obese pax are becoming a protected class, the allergy sufferers will be next. Just wait. Read my Peanut Mom from Hell story above.

    3. From the airlines perspective, they have a passenger who paid an additional fee to bring a dog on-board.  And another passenger who self-disclosed she has an allergy, and epi-pen, and didn’t take her medicine early enough.  They have the same duty to transport both passengers.  The lowest risk, in my opinion, would be to re-accommodate the woman who could have a reaction in-flight, than the passengers who have a dog with them.  In either case, they are obligated to transport the passengers, not the dog has others have stated.  The dog is simply the property of one of the passengers.  So this is not a dogs rights versus passengers rights issue has some have stated.  This is a case of passengers who pose no risk v. passenger who may require emergency medical attention which could be avoided if she is re-accommodated.

      1. True – if her allergy IS that bad, removing the dog would have done no gone, as the allergens are still there on the flight (ask peanut allergy sufferers).  So it only makes sense to remove the one who can potentially suffer a medical emergency while still in the air.

        1. But what if the CAPTAIN was allergic to dogs?
          Will they remove the captain? Of course not, they will remove the dogs.

  8. I don’t think AA owes her anything. I think she brought this upon herself. Instead of STFUing and taking a Claritin, she told the FA that she had a “Class 3 Allergy.” That may have alarmed the FA.

    The only time I’ve heard someone mention a “class” with their allergy is a hysterical mother on a (groan) flight to MCO that her child had a “Class 4 Allergy” to peanuts. The woman stood at the bulkhead row and told everyone boarding the plane that she would have people arrested (LOL) if they ate any peanuts on board. The FAs told her to sit down and they’d take care of it. She reluctantly agreed, but when I opened a bag of chips in FC, she actually stuck her head through the curtain and asked if it had peanuts in it! 

    Now, to those who think that animals don’t belong in the cabin…sometimes that’s the only way a family can relo their pets. This probably wasn’t the case here, but if they paid the $150, they should be able to fly with the dog.

    That said, I’ve also witnessed a middle-eastern man flip out at having to sit next to a legitimate (non-psychiatric) service dog. HE was the one removed from the already oversold flight. And rightly so. 

    And don’t get me started on the psychiatric or “emotional support animals.” If you can’t exist in normal life without your theraputic snake (sat next to that once), please, stay the hell home!

    (The reason we’re seeing an uptick of those is the documentation is easy to print off the internet and the airlines aren’t allowed to charge the carriage fee for them)

    1. I work for an airline. I used to take the documentation provided by the passenger and search for the doctor’s name online. The vast majority of the letters were from legitimate mental health professionals. But then again, there are plenty of doctors who will do the necessary paperwork to get their patient a handicapped parking sticker as well. 

      The best ever was a letter from a “Doctor” who turned out to be a “Doctor” of Massage Therapy…who stated on her website that the “Doctor” title was from “life experience” and not from an accredited  university. Her “patient” was not allowed to board without paying the pet fee. She was also offered the option to take a refund or allowed to make arrangements for the pet’s care and rebook a later flight in the day. 

      1. Google “Emotional Support Animal”…there are actually boards where people post doctor’s letters and encourage others to falsify their own name/city/state on them.

        Glad you’re being proactive about this…friend of mine is having a battle royale with a woman who moved SEVEN “emotional support dogs” into his rental house and of course the ill mannered pups destroyed the place. 

          1. I confer upon you the degree or Doctor of Snarkology, and all rights and privileges associate with such.  Please note, I have absolutely no authority to grant any sort of degree, but then again, nether to some of these fake schools.
            I got a call once from a fake school that said for $5,900 they would give me a PhD based on life experience.  They said I would get a diploma, syllabi for all of my courses, cliff notes for all of my books, and they would provide letters or recommendation and references that people could call.  I would have to give written statements to them for the reference checks which they would read.  They would also give me official transcripts, etc.  It made me feel so sick.  I wonder how many people actually take then up on it.  The whole pitch was that I should get a PhD because I have had a lot of related life experience.

    2. Here’s a question. I’m on a flight, PB&J for lunch, packet of peanuts for a snack, and a big ole cup of peanut juice – just for affect 🙂 – for a drink. Lady announces loudly that she’s gonna have me arrested if I dare to open this lunch up in front of her nut-allergey son. Now, I have hypo-glycemia; I have to eat something during a 3-hour flight. Does she pay for my “approved” airline-provided – if there is one – lunch, now? Do I? Does the airline? Just a question.

      1. Good question. I fly enough to encounter the occassional peanut allergy. I’ve noticed they are most prevalent on trips to/from MCO, but even then, pretty rare. Normally, they make an annoucement, but I don’t think they could “stop” anyone from consuming food they brought on board.

        One woman even handed out “safe” candy bars to those of us seated nearby with a little sticker saying, “My son is allergic to peanuts. Please don’t eat any peanut products on this flight. Sorry for the inconveience, but have some chocolate that’s safe!”

        This one mother was just NUTS. (pun intended) Yeah, arrest me, you idiot. o_O

  9. If her allergy is not severe and she would have been fine, why did she say things like she should have started her medicine yesterday and, here, look at my epipen, and I have a class 3 allergy.  If it’s not a problem, don’t make it sound like one.  If it was my job to make sure there was not an incident on a plane, and someone told me they didn’t take their medicine early enough, and talk about allergy class, that would trigger a safety warning with me.  I don’t know if they handled it right hearing only one side, and I don’t know why the OP cut it so close by flying there so close before an important meeting that there was no room for error, but I think this it’s likely it could have been handled better by AA, and could have been handled better by the OP.
    What surprises me is actually how well aircraft’s air-filtration systems work.  I used to think they were dirty and full of recirculated un-sanitary air, but then I read an article about it in Popular Science a few years ago.  All of the air is sucked out the bottom of the cabin and goes through a hospital grade HEPA filtration system before being returned.  Also more than 50% of the air coming out of the vents is drawn in from the outside and compressed.  It’s actually one of the cleanest air environments there is.  And I can attest to that personally. I am allergic to cats, though I never had to blood test and don’t know my RAST classification, I have been advised to never go near cats.  I have also ended up in the hospital several times for going into someone’s house who had a cat (I did not know they had one upon entering).  I now carry an epi-pen for that very reason.  The whole point of this is that I used to always ask if there would be a cat on my flight, and then ask to be re-accommodated if there was.  After reading the article about how clean the air on planes is, I found myself on a plane with a cat and it was a 30 minute flight, so I decided to get my pen ready, down an Allegra, and hope for the best.  Much to my pleasant surprise, I had no allergy problems.  Since then I have been on much longer flights with cats with no incident.  Airplanes seem to be the only place where I can be near a cat without my eyes and throat swelling shut.  Of course the OP didn’t know this, but I thinks it’s appropriate to share.

  10. Sorry but if, andI do mean if, AA owes her anything, it’s for the public embarrassment of removing her from the flight. I’d say $50 in airline funny money would be enough.

    AA isn’t responsible for her missing her meeting or her apparent over reaction to the dog.

    If the OP allows one additional flight between her departure and the meeting, she makes the meeting. Anything could have caused her original flight not to land on time from weathert o mechanical delays to the OP having a flat tire and missing the flight. If she allows an extra flight, she gives herself additional time. If the meeting was that important and took that much time to setup, the additional time on the
    ground would have worked to her benefit to prepare. Yes, I follow my own advice when I fly internationally and take an early connecting flight to the hub just so I don’t miss the intercontinental flight and have to wait an entire extra day for the next one.

    If the OP calmly tells the FA that she has a mild dog allergy and asks to be reseated, nothing else happens. The OPs own story leads me to believe that didn’t happen. If she calmly tells the FA, the people behind her don’t find out and feel the need “[start] laughing and shouting loudly to the other passengers how cute their dog was and how it would not hurt anyone.” In fact there’s no need to stand up and say anything to the dog owners. There’s no need to start talking like she has a protocol
    for dog exposure or showing the crew that she has an epipen.

    As soon as she starts into needing to take Claritin and stating that
    she should have done it the night before, she set off alarm bells in the FA’s head. She made it worse by showing her an eppipen and stating that she had a “Class 3 Allergy.” Sorry my daughter has horrible allergy symptoms and has spent timein the hospital for out of control allergic reactions etc and I have never heard of a “Class 3 Allergy.” If the OP had just said “mild” that would have calmed the FA instead she just made the FA more concerned. 

    In my opinion, the OP was removed from the plane because she
    overreacted. She has a mild dog allergy but her actions to the crew were more consistent with a severe allergy. The crew and the FA first duty is aircraft safety. They responded like she had the more severe allergy which was consistent with the OPs actions. What would her note to Chris look like if she had a severe reaction and they barely got her on the ground in time. 

    Chris you are correct that the FA did not have an MD. Without the benefit of that training, the FA followed the safest path and left the OP with her apparent severe allergy behind where the ground staff could have her evalutate by medical personnel.

    I did vote to mediate if only to get AA side of the story.

  11. You can’t mediate when there is only one stated position.  It is like negotiating with yourself.  Good luck.  You gotta wait for AA to say something in a reasonable period of time.

      1. Three weeks’ wait from a journalist-consumer advocate?  Sure, that’s enough time, considering you know all the “right” email addresses.  AA is doing a PR blitz about new planes, new seats, etc, so it can spend a little time taking care of customers too.

      2. Did you even look at the scheduled arrival time of AA 452? This letter should have gone straight to your trash can. If her meeting was half as important as she claimed, she would have allowed more than 30 minutes between scheduled arrival and meeting start time.

        LW is full of it.

        1. Check your schedule. On April 3, the arrival time was pushed back to around 10:30 a.m.  Previously, AA452 departed around 7 a.m. and consistently arrived before 10 a.m.  

          Two possible scenarios:  First, she traveled before April 3.  Second, her meeting was set and flights reserved before the schedule change was made, around Feb. 21.  

          Usual taxi time, around 20-30 minutes to downtown Boston.

          1. I don’t see how that matters. If your meeting was this important to you: “I missed being picked up at the airport, and missed the crucially important meeting that had taken over a month to set up,” she says. “The meeting could not be rescheduled since the principals left Boston, so my subsequent meetings were also cancelled. My entire trip to Boston was a waste of time and money. My meeting has not been rescheduled,” would you have allowed yourself only 1 hour of buffer? 

            FlightAware has that flight arriving BOS at all different manner of times. There could have been a weather delay, ATC delay, a security issue at the airport that cleared out the terminal. Traffic in a major city can be unpredictable. She could have gotten a flat tire on the way to the airport in MIA. In real life, when people absolutely must be at Location X at Time Y, they allow extra time as a buffer. Things do not always go smoothly! One hour is not enough, as LW found out.

      3.  Chris, it seems to me AA may have broken the law.

        14 CFR Part 382
        Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel
        § 382.31 Refusal of transportation.
        (a) Unless specifically permitted by a provision of this part, a carrier shall not refuse to provide transportation to a qualified individual with a disability on the basis of his or her disability.
        (b) A carrier shall not refuse to provide transportation to a qualified individual with a disability solely because the person’s disability results in appearance or involuntary behavior that may offend, annoy, or inconvenience crewmembers or other passengers.

        (e) When a carrier refuses to provide transportation to any person on a basis relating to the individual’s disability, the carrier shall specify in writing to the person the basis for the refusal, including, where applicable, the reasonable and specific basis for the carrier’s opinion that transporting the person would or might be inimical to the safety of the flight. This written explanation shall be provided within 10 calendar days of the refusal of transportation.

        Allergy is a disability.

        1. Interesting. But what would happen if you had a service dog an a severely allergic person on the same flight? Who gets rebooked? Any airline folks want to give us some policy on this?

          1. Neither, if the airplane is big enough to put lots of separation between them. Most people with allergies to airborne dander, pollen, etc. can reduce their chances of getting an attack by wearing an N95 (or finer) mask. I suffer from pollen allergies (currently high in CT) so I wear a mask when I mow the lawn. I also take 2 Benadryl capsules before I go out and do yard work. As a precaution, I take my puffer (life saving) with me.

          2. Again, they would most likely have moved the one with the allergy, as just removing a dog might not be enough to stave off an allergic reaction – they do err on the side of safety.

        2. But they didn’t discriminate – her specifying a legitimate medical situation CAN and WILL get you removed from a potentially dengerous situation (such as this allergic reaction escalating while in the air, and any use of an epi-pen is not a panacea, but a first step before medical treatment – making it very dangerous for her to fly).  They moved her to another flight which would have assured no chance of an allergic reaction, and a far safer environment.  And the airlines ARE allowed to make that call.

          1. It seems to me the airline should have removed the ANTIGEN, the source of the irritant – THE DOG. By not having done so, the discriminated on an allergy sufferer (a disability). Nevertheless, where is the letter from AA? They are supposed to give her an explanation.

          2. But it may not have been enough if she was TRULY that bad – which is why they err on the side of safety – by moving her to another flight ALLERGEN free.  And allergies are NOT a disability – they are a PITA, I admit (hate when mine flare up) – but she needed to be responsibile for herslef – if pets in the cabin were that much of a problem – she should have callled the airline ahead of time to ensure a pet-free flight.

    1. It’d be helpful to get AA’s side of things, but their failure to quickly provide information says something about them and this situation, as well.   And their failure to provide their side shouldn’t keep this complaint from ever seeing the light of day.

  12. Given none of the people at the airport were her doctor, I have to wonder how they felt fit to not only diagnose her condition but to tell her the medications she carried with her in the event she suffered an allergy attack weren’t “good enough”.

    I feel the only part in this was her mess up was when she confronted the passengers rather than quietly go to an FA to ask her seat be changed.

    And AA not responding to your requests for more information is suspect, to me.  I realize other people might take the stance it means nothing but I’ve often adhered to the belief maintaining silence is an admission of some sort of guilt.

    Her missing her meetings is serious business, depending on what the meetings were about.  It also might diminish her standing/reputation in the eyes of the people with whom she was supposed to me.  But this is me going off on a tangent.

    At the very least, I’d be interested in hearing what AA has to say about it.  I don’t feel their theatrics on the plane, resulting in the OPs removal, were necessary.  I’ve fallen victim to an overzealous airline employee threatening detainment (of sorts, long story, another time) when a question is asked they don’t want to/can’t answer.

    1. I think the passenger caused her own problem – you don’t refer to your “class 3” allergy, and your having an epi-pen and expect this doesn’t escalate.  They would definately want to remove her, as the even if they did remove the dog, if her allergy is that bad, the dander would have still caused a potential problem, so moving HER to a safer flight was the right call.  She should merely have said that she gets sniffles and swollen eyes – and never brought up the rest.

      1. I knew it could be said.  It just had to be said by someone outside my head!  I think the voices were just too loud this morning.

  13. Why allow pets inside airplanes??? Note: Service animals are NOT pets. Cathay Pacific only allows Service Dogs, no pets, in their cabins. Your pet can travel in the cargo area.

    1. Exactly!  Pets can travel in the hold, so it’s not clear why anyone, owners of service animals naturally excepted, should be allowed to fly with their pet in the cabin.  It’s not just allergy suffers who will be unhappy when there’s a mess or noise incident and it all goes wrong.  Considering the way people talk about babies in the cabin, who some people genuinely have no option but to travel with, there’s no conceivable reason why any pet should be allowed in the cabin.  Not when there’s a perfectly viable alternative which means that pet owners can still travel with their loved ones.

      1. No animal should be put in the hold of a plane – if you claim to love your pet, why are you going to shove it in a crate, leave it with strangers for several hours, then have it shoved into the hold where it is loud and disconcerting?  Yeah, that’s how I treat my dog. (She is currently sitting at my feet, getting the occasional piece of “You’re home from the kennel” popcorn.) 

        And I don’t buy the “only way to relo with an animal” argument.  Unless it’s overseas, you can drive yourself.  In my family, when you move across the country (and several of us have), you drive with the animals.  It’s a bit long, but it is far more comfortable and safe (and less stressful) for your pet – even ones that don’t like driving.This whole situation isn’t even about pet travel – it’s allergies and how the airline (and the OP) handled the situation.  Raven’s rants about ESA’s aside, pets are allowed on planes and there’s not a whole lot to be done about it.  Airlines should realize that people are allergic to companion animals and have some sort of actual process in place for this type of scenario.  (And the OP should plan her travel with buffer times for her meetings.)

        I do think the OP probably over-reacted, but that AA isn’t responding to Chris also makes them suspect as well.  I think no one was probably fully in the right here, but that doesn’t mean the airlines shouldn’t consider this type of thing.

      2.  >Pets can travel in the hold, so it’s not clear why anyone… should be allowed to fly with their
        pet in the cabin.

        Because it’s dangerous. About three dozen pets a year die in airplane holds. Besides being a frightening experience (and one serious trauma can affect a dog’s temperament) all it takes is for the pilots to forget to turn on the heat in the hold and your pet is a petsicle.

        I can’t see any circumstances under which I would ship my pet as baggage. When we want to travel with our pet, we take the car. Kind of sad, actually, because we like to travel, and if the airlines could accommodate medium-size dogs in the cabin, they might make more money off of us.

      3. Because it is actully far more dangerous in the hold than in the cabin, especially for smaller animals.

  14. I’m in sympathy with Ms. Bruno, BUT – if the meeting couldn’t take place because of her new arrival time, why the heck did she fly anyway?  I would have saved my time and expense by calling the people she was meeting and stating that because of airline difficulties (no further explanation needed) that she couldn’t make the meeting as scheduled and ask for a new time/date.  THEN she could have asked American Airlines to change the ticket to accommodate that new time/place, waiving the change fee.

    I think if she had done so, her position would have been stronger for mediation.  I still voted YES for mediation, just so that both parties to this dispute can be brought to the meeting table.  (Unless there’s a dog under the table . . .)

    1. That’s a good point… I would think this event would qualify as “refusal to transport” in which case she could have asked for a full refund. 

      (Not sure if anyone from AA mentioned that option and maybe she was too upset to think through all her options clearly).

    2. As noted elsewhere, it’s very easy for a third party who wasn’t there to say “She should have.”  You don’t know that she was able to schedule the flight at any other time-maybe she wasn’t for reasons that aren’t mentioned here.

  15. Certainly you should find out American Airlines’ side of the story.  But, I have a real problem with someone with allergies being kicked off a flight when they announce that they’re allergic. Pet owners should not be entitled to higher priority treatment than others just because they think their pets are “cute.”  There are any number of humans with allergies to animals, and the fees they pay for their seats should matter just as much, if not more, than the pet owners’.

    American Airlines didn’t fulfill any contracts by throwing Marilyn Bruno off the plane if she was okay after she was reseated. If she actually made a big fuss or otherwise acted out, then it would have been reasonable to escort her off, but that doesn’t sounds like what’s happened here. And she should be entitled to a full refund of her flight at the very least. Some frequent flyer miles or a voucher for a future flight would be good compensation for the loss of her business.

    1. Actually, its not a matter of priority, but safety.  Once exposed to the allergens, merely removing the dog may not have been enough.  Since she made the production out of it, they were more concerned than if she just would have said she gets a runny nose and eyes in these situations.  They merely erred on safety’s side, because if she had problems in the air, she could very well have died from this situation, and then where would she be?

      1. She “made a production” by agreeing to be reseated and having an epi-pen ready to use?  I think you overstate.

  16. Sounds to me like this woman was prepared to make a much bigger deal out of this than was necessary, until she realized the airline was taking her seriously, then she backed down. As soon as she mentioned the need for an epi pen, AA was only protecting itself by getting her off the flight, and it sounds like they paid to put her on another airline rather than make her wait for the next AA flight.

    Someone who carries an epi pen when their allergy can be handled by Claritin is clearly a classic over-reactor. (Sounds like this is similar to my cat allergies, and I’ve never even thought of an epi pen.) Other signs: The notion that the other passengers were “laughing” and “talking loudly” and trying to get the plane to gang up on her. Give me a break. If her allergy is that bad, or the meeting that important, then she should have planned for this possibility by asking AA or booking an earlier flight. Maybe she hasn’t heard that flights don’t always run on time.

    This woman is full of it. She went in wanting a fight, and she got one, and now she wants AA to pay? Please. I voted no. Please, Chris, spend your time on people who have been truly wronged, not those who went looking for trouble and found it.

  17. AA treated her rather poorly and maybe she should get some compensation (in small claims court, perhaps?) but if I were in her shoes I would have simply thanked thanked the flight attendant and said nothing about my medications.  The flight would have taken off and that would have been the end of it.

  18. I say “No” because Bruno is the one who made the big deal out of being seated near the dog.  She should have quietly talked to a flight attendant and asked to have her seat changed — instead of confronted the owners of the dog.  And once she did get her seat changed, she continued to make a bigger deal of it, going on about the fact that she should have started taking the allergy medicine sooner and having an EpiPen in case her reaction got serious.  She knew then that her allergy was a Class 3 and wasn’t likely to escalate to the EpiPen status.  She just wanted to cause a scene from Step One.  Well — she was the Scene-Stealer alright!

  19. Sometimes I swear Chris posts these questions as much to get his laugh (and give everyone else one) as to get other points of view.  Dr. of Massage Therapy, conferred upon oneself by virtue of life experience, is HILARIOUS!  And Raven, if anyone on here deserves the proposed PhD, you do (no insult intended).  I will help fly your banner!

  20. AA 452 arrives in BOS at 10:30am. Isn’t that a little tight for an 11am meeting? Any small delay would have caused her to miss her sooper dooper I’m sooo important meeting. 

    I wouldn’t touch this one with a 10′ pole until you get AA’s side of the story. Traveler’s story is already pretty suspect. She may be giving you an extremely 1-sided account, and that’s in the best case. My BS detectors are going wild right about now.

    1. There does seem to be something missing in the story between her noticing the dog and telling the people she was allergic and them “laughing and shouting loudly to the other passengers how cute their dog was and how it would not hurt anyone.”  Unless they were insane or couldn’t understand what the OP was saying, that doesn’t even make sense given the situation. 

      Generally, when one side starts shouting the other side either is doing the same or pretty close to it. And if everything was good once they were moved to a different seat, I’m wondering why the FA had to check back with them multiple times. I suspect the allergy got played up quite a bit more than they’re letting on in their story–and even what they admit to doing about mentioning the epi is more extreme than it sounds like was required.  

      Sometimes when you make a big deal out of something, people take you more seriously than you intended.

  21. If her meetings were that important and if they really did take that long to set up, wouldn’t an overnight in Boston before her meetings be in order? Maybe she is too far down on the food chain and wasn’t in control of her travel, which would be her only excuse, seems to me.

  22. I voted no for one reason: she stated she had an Epi-Pen.  As another commenter noted, Epi-pens do not treat anaphylaxis.  They only give the person additional time to get to the hospital for proper treatment.  It does not give a person enough time to allow a plane to make an emergency landing and then head to the hospital.  The flight attendant was doing her duty in protecting the passenger (and the company) by removing her to another flight that did not have a dog.  Should she have needed the Epi-pen on the flight, there was a huge possibility that she would have died before getting proper medical attention.

    That being said… As the daughter of an allergy suffer and one myself, there are quite a few mistake the OP made.  First and foremost: inquiring if there was going to be a dog on the flight.  It is in the best interest of the passenger to both inquire about potential allergens and inform the airline before arriving at the airport of their allergies.  Case in point: In 2010, my family flew Business Class on Aer Lingus to Ireland.  My mother has severe onion allergies and before the flight, I called customer service asking about the in-flight meal.  Because this was business class, the rep was extremely nice in making the appropriate notes to her reservation.  We didn’t expect to get any special treatment, other than maybe instead of an caramelized onion steak a plan one.  We had already planned ahead an bought an “emergency” sandwich that she could eat in case nothing could be done.  They were extremely accommodating and I was actually envious of the food she received.  Granted, this was business class, but I think that providing her allergy information ahead of time, even if we were in coach, helped prevent problems.  From the other side, I was on a jetBlue flight where it was announced that someone on board had a severe peanut allergy and we were asked to refrain from eating anything containing nuts.  It was evident that this person notified the airline ahead of time as the snack basket provided to the stewardesses did not contain any peanut products.  Prevention is the best medicine.

    The second thing, and then one that makes we wonder how allergic she really is, is her taking of the Claritin when she first felt the symptoms.  Claritin does not work instantly.  It can take up to 2 hrs to start kicking in (I’ve had this happen to me).  Benedryl, on the other hand, works within 30 min and even faster if you take the dissolving tablets.  Yes, Benedryl makes you sleepy, but it will also relive your symptoms much quicker.  Both my mother and I carry Children’s Benedryl in our bags where ever we go as a just in case.  When either of us feel that allergic tingle, popping a Children’s Benedryl usually stems the tide.  And being that it is exactly half an adult dose, it does the job without making you too drowsy.  If after 30 min, the tingle has not gone away, I could take another one and still be within the adult dose, albeit very tired.  If I was faced with the same situation as the OP, I would not, under any circumstances, have taken Claritin, Zyrtec, or Allerga; they just take too long.

    As a summery, being a allergy sufferer does not mean you get special treatment at the drop of a hat.  You need to plan ahead and take care of yourself.  You can’t place any responsibility on others.  Even many children with severe food allergies learn from an early age to ask ahead before they take a bite of an unknown food.  They (almost) never demand that their friend’s house be completely scrubbed clean of allergens before they arrive.  They just know that they are not the only ones living on this earth and have an understanding of what they cannot eat and what to do in an emergency.

    (Sorry for the long post, this just got to me.)

    1. Bruno moved to another location, she did not ask the dog to be removed, she took an allergy pill. Her mistake was divulging that she HAD the pen, and the attendant’s “policing” went too far. Your vast argument leads me to believe you would have laughed as well, had you been on the plane.

      1. Yes, she was moved to another location, but she also complained that the airline never notified her that a dog would be on board (which, if they did, would have been a story onto itself).  Mentioning that she had the Epi-pen is what her problem was.  It seems like the flight attendant may not have any experience with them or people carrying them and over reacted.  But, in the flight attendent’s defense, with the passenger already having a reaction and carrying the pen (which means that any reaction could develop into a bad one), she was a liability.

        And no, I wouldn’t have laughed.  I would have rolled my eyes and handed her my spare Benedryl.

    2. Sorry Erin, but the National Institute of Health disagrees with your statement:

      Epinephrine injection is used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions caused by insect bites, foods, medications, latex, and other causes. Symptoms of allergic reaction include wheezing, shortness of breath, low blood pressure, hives, itching, swelling, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and loss of bladder control. Epinephrine is in a class of medications called sympathomimetic agents. It works by relaxing the muscles in the airways and tightening the blood vessels.


      1. Actually, Tony, as someone who has had to use this epi-pen for asthma attacks, I can CLEARLY state is is a TEMPORARY measure, and not a true treatment.  Yes, it can open the airways, but is not permanent, and not always effective.  If her airways had closed and the pen didn’t work, she would never have survived the flight.  By bringing up the lack of meds early enough, the epi-pen and classifying the the type of allergy, she raised their alertness to this situation, and the only logical and SAFE thing to do was to offer her another flight where the situation would not be present.

        1. Our pulmonologist did not give my kids an epipen but we all travel with our puffers (quick-acting rescue inhaler). My youngest has had 2 or 3 (can’t remember exactly) life threatening incidents where we had rushed him to the emergency room (and needed a long stay). As far as I know, epipen is not really indicated for asthma attacks (bronchospasm) while a short-acting beta agonist  (i.e. Albuterol) or Ipratropium (Atrovent) or a corticosteroid is. Additional Oxygen also helps.  However, an epipen would be very useful for food allergies or a bee sting.

          Here’s what gets me. If the OP was really suffering an asthma attack, then why not call EMTs to give her oxygen while helping her out of the plane? It sounds like moving her farther from the dog calmed her down and was working. In other words, her physical symptoms did not seem to warrant any further caution. But then she mentioned the E word. If one shows a syringe, breathing machine, or portable oxygen device to a flight attendant, then it triggers an alarm. Are you gonna die on my flight (or watch)? No way, get out of here, now!

          But that’s one reason why we have Part 382. It does give persons with disabilities some rights. While it does not remove the authority of the captain to kick someone out of the flight, there is a price to pay if s/he does so in a way that violates this law. And that to me is the gist of this case. Did the airline crew, overreact and exercise poor judgement by kicking her out of the flight? If AA did not give her a written explanation within 10 days, then that is a sign that AA has no valid reason to kick her out because of her disability.

          1. Sorry, Tony – should clarify.  My asthma is usually under control, but I have HORRIBLE allergies that in turn can actually trigger an attack – so when an allergy kicks in, I use the pen.  And if you actually read the medical pages of the contracts of the airlines what they did, they were legalally required/allowed to do.  IF there is an allergen that requires more than the usual medical response, the recommendation is to move the passenger to a flight not so affected – after all, those allergens don’t neccessarily leave the plane with the dog (dander is a real b$$$$)

      2. Epinephrine, yes, is a treatment for a life-threatening allergic reaction, but an Epi-pen is not.  As per the Epi-pen patient instrustions: 

        “If you have an allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) use the Epi-pen or Epi-pen Jr auto injector right away and immediately go to your doctor or emergency room for more medical treatment.”  Further, and in bold letters, “IMMEDIATELY AFTER USE Go Immediately to the nearest emergency room or call 911.”

        Epinephrine clears the body rather rapidly (10-20 min) when compared to other medications, where as the biological processes involved in the reaction can go on for hours.  It is not uncommon for a patient in anaphylaxis to be hooked up to a slow, diluted epinephrine drip while also being prescribed steroids and/or antihistamines.  Also, as epinephrine increases heart and breathing rates and well as can increase blood pressure, medical observation is necessary to make sure the patient does not have a cardiac episode.

        1. Epipen is a BRAND of epinephrine. Why do you think lots of peanut allergy sufferers in elementary school have this ready to go injection? Same with bee folks.

  23. Really? I just don’t see this going down like the Mrs. Bruno says it did. Just mentioning you have allergies causes the dog owner to “Laugh” and “Shout Loudly” to other people? I can’t imagine an scenario where the other party is making a huge scene, yet YOU are the one singled out and removed from the plane. It makes no sense. 

    I would also like to hear AA’s side on this one. My guess is Mrs. Bruno made a huge stink about “Immediately feeling the first symptoms of an allergy attack” and the need for “claratin” etc. This frightened the crew because they didn’t want anyone to suffer an “allergy attack” while in the air they deplaned her. 

  24. AA’s side of the story is crap. 

    My wife has a Class 1 allergy to dogs and cats and carries an EpiPen all the time. 

    Its time for pets in the cabin to go. Sorry I love cats and dogs as much as the next person (and I to have a Class 3 allergy to them) but the “oh just take some medicine” or “Oh he/she won’t hurt you” or the “Oh just sit over there” comments from folks just piss me off (worse than the TSA pisses me off and that is saying a lot). 

    1. I don’t care for pets in the cabin either, but they are a fact of life.  She made too much of this to someone who took her seriously, and unfortunately, caused her own problems.  They erred on the side of safety, and she erred in bringing up the Claritin, ep-pen and classification issues.

      1. She is ultimately responsible for her own safety, and she was satisfied with her new seat and demonstrated that she was equipped to handle even a (highly unexpected) allergy emergency.

        I’m willing to bet that if a crew member asked her if she had an EpiPen and she said “no” then we’d have plenty of second-guessers criticizing her for NOT carrying one.

        If the crew still decides to disregard her POV and “err on the side of safety” then that’s their prerogative but they should completely own that decision themselves, and perhaps offer the passenger something for being inconvenienced.  Rather than blaming the passenger for “causing her own problems.”

        1. “She is ultimately responsible for her own safety, and she was satisfied with her new seat and demonstrated that she was equipped to handle even a (highly unexpected) allergy emergency.”

          Unfortunately this just isn’t true in sue happy US of A. If she had a reaction, some lawyer is going to take her case and go after the airline for not landing fast enough, failure to have proper medical supplies onboard and emotional distress. The airlines is going to either have to give into the extortion and settle or pay thousands of dollars to fight her in court (none of which they would be able to recover from her). Either way the airlines loses and has a planeful of people they had to accomodate after making an emergency landing for her.

          The crew took the safest route when she admitted to having a reaction and gave he anti-histamine time to take effect.

          1. I don’t see how that changes anything.

            If the decision was made for legal reasons then that was for AA’s benefit.  They should own that decision themselves and consider some compensation for the OP’s inconvenience a small price to pay for achieving that benefit.

            No one should be blaming the passenger, least not for a hypothetical lawsuit that she never insinuated.

  25. Dogs or cats or any other wild animal (except dogs that are used for the disabled) have no place in the cabin. Please leave spot and puff at home if you wish to travel in the future.

  26. What appalled me was the behavior of the dog ovwners.  Like little snookums’ hair was made of gold.  Perhaps if someone wants to bring a dog into the cabin they should be required to get a sealed carrier with a battery operated circulating fan with a HEPA filter.

  27. the dog and it’s owner should have been thrown off the plane and booked on a later flight with passengers that don’t mind flying with there mutt.

    1. But it still would not have answered this passenger’s problem.  If her allergy was severe, she could likely STILL have had problems, even once the pet was removed — she made a big deal out of her condition, was taken seriously, and the airline sided with her safety – they did the only thing they could to ensure her safe travel.

  28. More like a cat fight.
    While this is not related to animals and allergies, I have to take Bruno’s side.
    I flew SW and a man in my row had a small backpack in the overhead and nothing under the seat at his feet.  I asked – nicely – if he would move it so that I could put my carry-on, which was too big for under the seat, and he said no.  I then asked again with more surprise than annoyance, and he said no.  A flight attendant got into the mix and she indeed, was going to eject me, not him.  I cannot recall this many years later if I moved, found a new overhead or if it had to go into the bowls of the plane. 
    Maybe Bruno was not going to use it as a weapon at first, but I bet after a while, she would have liked to.
    What is there to mediate, however?  The company did spend/lose the money, and I hope she had ample proof to not get a wrist slapping or lose her job.

  29. I voted YES for one reason – I would like Airlines to develop a forthright policy towards people who suffer from allergies. Most people carry an Epipen because they need an IMMEDIATE dose of epinephrine to treat a life-threatening allergic reaction. But just because you are in POSSESSION of an Epipen does not mean that you are having [or will have] a life-threatening allergic reaction. The attendant should have looked at the OP’s symptoms closely and determine if she NEEDED HELP.  Moving her farther from the trigger (the ANTIGEN) was correct. But kicking her out of the flight was just too much. She should have been able to enjoy that flight just like the rest of all the passengers.

    1. But by making her classification, the fact she didn’t take the Claritin early enough, and that she did have the pen probably convinced them she had a legitimate medical problem best to be avoided.  She escalated this situation, and they erred on the side of safety.  Can’t really blame them in this case.

      1. I had a message come across in the client’s PNR that she was being held pending medical evaluation.  Spoke to her daugher the next day and the passenger was feeling light headed at the gate and due to her age, the carrier denied her boarding until the airport medical staff came to the gate and checked her out.  Not allowing a passenger to fly due to health concerns it permited.

        1. I think the key is whether there was an indication of the passenger’s condition that would warrant kicking her out of the flight for everyone’s safety and well being.

          The way I read this article, the OP may have DOOMED her flight when she mentioned or showed the Epipen to the flight attendant, maybe because the FA took it to mean that s/he had to administer the injection if the passenger went into anaphylactic shock.

          IMO, allergy to pet dander is not likely as severe as peanut (or bee sting) allergy. An anti-histamine may have worked given some time. Since airlines do allow some pets in the cabin, and obviously airlines know that some people are allergic to pets, then why can’t the airline be proactive and help people with allergies to cope with pets in the cabin? Maybe separate them as far as possible (buffer zone).

  30. Claritin isn’t terribly effective – especially against pet dander allergies.

    Of all the non-sedating or low-sedating antihistamines, Claritin is probably the least effective.  Xyrtec works really well, although it has a high incidence of drowsiness.  Allegra is extremely effective.  They also both work quickly.

    The main advantage of Claritin is that its generic versions are ubiquitous and are cheap.  My primary care physician immediately recommended Allegra and only prescribed Claritin when my insurance company stopped covering Allegra.  When Claritin (and its generics) went OTC, many insurance companies stopped covering any non-sedating antihistamines.

    1.  Allegra and Zyrtec are now both available OTC and in generic form.  Allegra is the only one that does anything for me and it only takes the edge off.  It would have been cheaper if they stayed RX only.  The generic would probably only cost $4 from Target or Wally World.


        I tried taking the full 180 mg generic, but have issues with getting a bit jittery.  I asked a pharmacist if there was an issue with splitting the tablets, and he said that it’s not time release and I should have no issues.  I remember when I used to get Allegra as a prescription, and it came as a powder in a gelatin capsule.

        The same pharmacist said that I could still get a prescription for generic Fexofenadine, but that it would probably have to be paid out of pocket, and would cost more than the generic OTC, which should be identical.  However, that would have been the only way they could get the 60 mg versions, if that’s what I wanted.

        Right now I just buy the generic (not at cheap as generic loratadine but not too expensive) and split the tablets.  It’s probably more than the standard 60 mg 12 hour dose (which is hard to find OTC but I’ve seen it).  I hear the primary manufacturers of the generic versions are Teva in Israel and Dr. Reddy in India.

        If anyone has a serious issue with allergies, then something like diphenhydramine or chlorphernamine are considerably more effective.  I understand that an alternative to an epi-pen can be a megadose of diphenhydramine.  Something like 8 25 mg doses is generally safe but well above the recommended dose for regular allergies.

        1. If you can find it, the children’s version is 30mg on a 12hr cycle (instead of the standard adult dose of one 180mg per 24 hours)

          1. I know there are different versions out there.  There are some places where I’ve found the brand name in 60 mg tablets.  However, the prices are universally higher (much migher) for the brand name.

            For whatever reason, the generic/housebranded versions of fexofenadine seem to only come in the 180 mg “24 hour” dose whereever I’ve seen it sold.  They’re also considerably cheaper – maybe $14 for 30 tablets that can be split.

            I understand that there is also a 30 mg dose approved for adults who can’t tolerate 60 mg, but that’s prescription only.  Also – Allegra used to be really pricey when it was prescription only and still under patent.  I remember getting as 60 capsules of 60 mg each.  I paid a $5 or $10 copay, but the pharmacists told me that the retail price was around $120 to $150.

  31. I suspect that the needle is the problem. She was asked to show the epi pen, and it may not have been clear what it was. I ran into that problem in Paris with an insulin pen, but had no proof of what was in the syringe. It took 2 hours to get the authorization to board. Always carry a copy of the perscription and the box to prove everything when it comes to needles. It is a very sensitive TSA problem.

    1. From the narrative, it appears that they allowed her on a later flight and did not take her needle away. If it happened, I would expect that she would have mentioned her medication being confiscated when she gave Chris the reasons that she wanted compensation from AA.

  32. Most domestic carriers allow nonservice dogs/cats of a certain size in the cabin, but must fit in a container and be under the seat. And there is a hefty fee in each direction for this. Southwest allows animals in the cabin now, too.  The newer change is the ‘medical need’ which allows for the animal to be on the passengers lap.  A friend just got her approval for this and IMHO it is bogus and she is just going nuts! 

    1. Great. Now I’ll be seated next to an “emotional support” snake that’s not even in a cage.


  33. What will they do next?  throw those of us who bring malaria medicine with us off the plane because it causes a PR problem in that all is not as pictured in their tropical aisles?

  34. This is DEFINITELY a mediation case!  Poor woman, how could she know that being honest and upfront would cause so much trouble?  The FA should have just moved her and left it at that.  Hearing about these kinds of incidents lead to all kinds of evasive behaviour on the part of the paying passenger.  I remember a non-functioning seatbelt on a full flight … was I going to report it and get escorted off the flight?  No way!  Little question that AA just couldn’t take a chance on a legal liability problem, so made sure there wasn’t one.  Ugh, how dumb.

  35. She complied with AA allergy policy

    Special AssistanceAllergies, Medications And Meals


    American recognizes that some passengers are allergic to
    peanuts. Although we do not serve peanuts, we do serve other nut
    products and there may be trace elements of unspecified peanut
    ingredients, including peanut oils, in meals and snacks. We make no
    provisions to be peanut-free.

    Additionally, other customers may bring peanuts on board.
    Therefore, we cannot guarantee customers will not be exposed to peanuts
    during flight and strongly encourage customers to take all necessary
    medical precautions to prepare for the possibility of exposure.
    Although some destinations do not allow pets in the cabin, please
    be aware that there may be occasions when customers with disabilities
    may travel with service animals in the cabin.

    So why did she get kicked out of the flight?

    1. By her own admission she did not comply with their policy. She states in her letter that she told the FA that she needed to start her anti-histamines the night prior to be safe which she didn’t do.

      AA’s policy requires “strongly encourage customers to take all necessary medical precautions to prepare for the possibility of exposure” 

      If she had done this and started her meds the night prior, there’s no issue and she doesn’t need to be moved. She didn’t and by her own admission had a reaction. The dog owner complied with AA policy. She did not so she got an opportunity to allow her anti-histamines to work before she flew.

      1. If she knew there were pets on that particular flight, YES, I agree with you. If she did not know or was not told, then bringing meds on board would suffice. IMO the AA notice in its entirety (not as posted) really warns one to BRING MEDS JUST IN CASE and not necessarily take a prophylactic dose. Otherwise, all allergy sufferers would have to pre-medicate and speculate on whether there would be pets on board near them. That is also not necessarily safe or good since anti histamines can make one drowsy and more prone to dehydration.

  36. Chris, is it possible to tell us what AA finally communicated to the customer?

    Does the op only have an allergy to dogs? Perhaps the epi pen is carried for other allergies.

    The op could not have imagined the reaction of the FA. If so, I’m sure she would have kept her pen a secret.

    1. And how do you know that she could have-that her schedule allowed for it?  It’s awfully easy to throw around words and judgments like “you could have” and “you should have” when you don’t actually know that that’s the case.

  37. It’s possible the flight attendant’s approach to all allergic passengers is to have them kicked-off the plane.  About 5 years ago a Hatian woman had an alergic reaction during a flight from Port Au Prince.  The “response” of the flight attendants, in that case, was to do nothing.  The pleas for oxygen from the woman and her family were ignored.  The woman died in flight and the Hatian government sent a protest to AA.  Probably nothing ever happened to AA and AA probably sent the dead woman’s family a (worthless) $100 flight voucher “for the inconvenience.”

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