Veteran kicked off plane over service dog dispute

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- Police escorted a Vietnam veteran off a flight in Phoenix after a dispute over his service dog.

The unidentified man was traveling through Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport to El Paso on Saturday. 

US Airways officials confirm the incident took place on a US Airways Express Jet operated by SkyWest.

The unidentified man refused to obey an order from the pilot, who asked the crew to have the man put his service dog on the floor.

The veteran refused, saying his 100-pound golden retriever would not fit on the floor.  He insisted the dog sit on the vacant seat next to him.

Airline officials say for safety reasons, large service dogs are required to lie on the floor since there is no way to strap them in.

Another passenger posted a 10-minute video of the confrontation, which features the veteran cursing out the pilots.

The US Airways crew and the other passengers remained calm after returning to the gate, even as the man yelled angrily, calling the crew, "punks."

He refused to leave, unless he was handcuffed by an officer.  While they waited for a Phoenix Police Officer to board, the man stood and spoke to the other passengers.

"I'm sorry, folks, but I've earned the right to have this service animal. Because of my service to this country in Vietnam, I'm 100 percent disabled," he explained on the video.

An officer approached, and delicately told the man he had to leave. The service dog followed.

After watching the video, Joyce Weber, who runs Happy Trails Service Dog Training in Phoenix, said the veteran should have listened to the pilot's orders.

"Golden retrievers are taught to go between the seat and into small spaces. It's unfortunate to see how this happened, but it doesn't look like this guy was right," she said of the veteran.

"If he thought the space wasn't big enough, they could've moved him to the bulkhead up front," she added.

Phoenix Police say the man could have faced serious federal charges for the pre-flight disruption, but he was only ticketed for trespassing.

US Airways rebooked the man's flight for the following day, and also paid his hotel tab for the night.