Black man alleges airline kicked him off plane 'so a dog could fly first-class'

Tanya Edwards
American Airlines (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto)

A man who says he was forced off an American Airlines flight "so a dog could fly first class" is suing the carrier.

According to Waco station KWTX, Dana Holcomb, of Killeen, Texas, said in a Tuesday statement, alongside his attorney, Reginald McKamie, Sr., that he wants to change the discrimination policies of the airline.

"Dana was taken off an airplane so a dog could fly first-class cabin,” McKamie, Sr. told reporters in Texas, while announcing the legal action.

The alleged incident occurred in April as Holcomb was flying from Las Vegas to Austin after his 53rd birthday, a trip which had a connecting flight in Phoenix. At the time, KXXV reported that Holcomb, who was flying in the first-class cabin, was seated beside a woman traveling with her support dog.

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Holcomb, who says he is allergic to dogs, told KXXV that he suffered an allergic reaction shortly after sitting down. "She began to ask everyone in the first-class section if they would be willing to exchange seats with her and no one was willing to do that.”

The captain of the plane and a flight attendant, then told Holcomb, “‘You’re going to go back to the rear of the plane or you’re going to get off the plane. And you’re going to do it the easy way or the hard way,’” according to McKamie, Sr.

Holcomb was taken off the plane and accused of being confrontational — behavior he denies, reports KWTX. He was reportedly separated from his luggage, which included his medication, and stranded at the airport,.

According to the lawsuit, two passengers also made sworn statements to support Holcomb’s claim.

"What American Airlines is doing is discrimination," McKamie, Sr. told reporters. "They have repeatedly humiliated African American citizens by throwing them off the plane, leaving them with no way home, no hotel, just throwing them off the plane."

McKamie, Sr. tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “Mr. Holcomb is suing American Airlines so that this will not happen to others. In 2017 the NAACP issued a travel Advisory because of American Airlines' discriminatory practices towards African-American travelers. The discriminatory practices the NAACP cited in 2017 continue to this day. Mr. Holcomb was put off the plane so that a dog could fly in the first-class cabin. A veteran, who served to protect all Americans, he is now fighting so that all Americans can feel as though they are equal citizens when traveling.”

American Airlines tells Yahoo Lifestyle in a statement, “Federal regulations require American Airlines to transport service and support animals. American makes every effort to accommodate all passengers, including those traveling with and seated near service or support animals. In the case of an allergy, we work to re-seat a passenger further away from the service or support animal.”

“In an effort to accommodate Mr. Holcomb, the crew offered to move the customer with the support animal to another seat in the first class cabin so Mr. Holcomb could remain in his seat,” it read. “Mr. Holcomb wasn’t satisfied with that solution, so he was given the option of a seat further away from the service animal in the main cabin with a refund in the difference in fare, which he also declined. After all the attempts to accommodate Mr. Holcomb were declined and he refused to comply with crew member instruction, he was removed from the plane. Our team offered to rebook Mr. Holcomb and refunded his first-class ticket.”

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