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.
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.”