Just like any other group, service dog partners have their own “telegraph”, their own way of getting information from one to the others. This week the service dog telegraph wires were humming with news about a North Carolina partner whose efforts to fly with her service dog to Scotland were almost destroyed by mistakes made by US Airways.
The woman we will call “Sue” had taken her service dog to Scotland on a previous trip that began with a flight from the United States to London. She followed all the regulations the UK has for bringing a service dog into the country and everything went well. On this trip her plan was to fly directly into Glasgow.
She called US Airways and asked if Glasgow was an approved point of entry for service dog teams and two US Airways employees told her it was. With that information she booked her flights and prepared for her trip.
The flight to Scotland was uneventful, but on landing Sue was told she and her dog were not allowed to leave the plane as Glasgow is not an approved point of entry for service dog teams traveling on US Airways. Sue and her dog sat for hours on the plane along with the crew which also was not allowed to leave because there remained a passenger on board the aircraft. UK officials came and went trying to come up with a solution. Should they be forced to remain on the plane and return to the USA? Should they be allowed to get off the plane only to immediately get on another plane that would take them to an approved point of entry city such as London (at their expense, of course)?
Eventually a woman official came on board and confiscated Sue’s service dog. Service dog partners can understand the anxiety that caused Sue as she relies on her dog to assist her with so many basics of life. Her anxiety was heightened when she discovered that the official handed off the dog to others telling them the dog was an illegal entry and thus had to be destroyed.
Fortunately the dog’s destruction never happened. Hours after their arrival in Glasgow and after calls from UK officials to the United States Embassy, Sue and her dog were allowed to leave.
Sue found herself unable to sleep following this incident. She had nightmares and on her return to the US was diagnosed with severe anxiety and PTSD. She is currently seeking compensation from US Airways for the Glasgow debacle.
Rules for traveling with a service dog on an airline have been around for years. Yes, they have been revised from time to time, but the basics remain the same. Yet why do airlines have such a difficult time when service dog or guide dog teams try to make reservations? Travel for service dog/guide dog teams to the UK opened up several years ago, yet US Airways still could not understand where they were allowed to land with such a team on board. Why? What happened to the training of their employees? Surely this must be written down somewhere.
We can only hope US Airways finds a way to compensate Sue adequately for their errors.