Woman Forcibly Removed From Airplane Reignites Support Animals Versus Allergy Debate
I have been asked to report on the incident which involved a woman who was forcibly removed from an airplane operated by Southwest Airlines — and we may never know exactly what actually happened depending on the account with which is believed.
Woman Forcibly Removed From Airplane Reignites Support Animals Versus Allergy Debate
…Anila Daulatzai was forcibly removed by law enforcement officers of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police from an airplane operated by Southwest Airlines despite resisting them and repeatedly asking in exasperation “What are you doing?!?”
The socio-cultural anthropologist at the Maryland Institute of Art also complained of her pants being ripped, resulting in the police officers giving her a momentary reprieve for her to fix the problem.
She also tried to explain the importance of remaining aboard the aircraft: “My dad has surgery tomorrow; I’m sorry; my dad has a surgery” the day after the flight from Baltimore was to conclude in Los Angeles.
Passengers generally appeared to be unsympathetic with her plight, as they wanted to depart for Los Angeles as soon as possible and not be delayed. After Daulatzai shouts that “I’m trying” to leave the aircraft, one passenger immediately says “Not trying.”
“Don’t touch me!” she repeatedly demanded. After being ordered to walk but complaining that she could not because she was being physically held by one police officer, he appeared to release his grasp on her — only to shove her forward when she did not seem to move forward on her own immediately afterwards.
What Caused This Situation to Occur?
According to reports from numerous sources, Daulatzai complained that she was allergic to two animals — an emotional support dog and a pet — and that her allergy was “life-threatening”…
…Daulatzai — who has been pregnant for at least two months — claimed that she was “humiliated and emotionally scarred” when she was forcibly removed from the airplane; and that on the contrary, her allergy was “not life-threatening at all” and never said that she could die if she was seated near dogs.
“When I boarded the plane, the first thing I asked the flight attendant was how many dogs were gonna be on this plane,” Daulatzai said before finding a seat far enough away from the animals to ensure that she would not suffer from an allergic reaction.
If that is the actual and accurate account of what happened aboard that airplane, the matter should have ended right there…
Where This Story Gets Fuzzy
…but Daulatzai alleged that members of the flight crew and captain continued to ask her about her allergy. “He started by saying ‘I’m uncomfortable with you on the plane.’ I said, ‘I’m sorry. I’m a primary caretaker for my father. I need to be there and I really ask you to reconsider.’”
Despite her assertion that she kept repeatedly stating to the captain of the aircraft in a cam manner that her allergy was not life-threatening — and even supposedly offered options to resolve the issue which were allegedly rejected by the captain — she found herself forcibly removed from the airplane by law enforcement officers.
Daulatzai — who is Muslim — claims that she was subjected to “racist and disparaging treatment” by the law enforcement officers. “So for me it was clear…um…a lack of…um…conflict resolution skills with them. There’s something that they just didn’t trust me. I was a brown woman with a hoodie.”
Ultimately charged with disorderly conduct; failure to obey a reasonable and lawful order; disturbing the peace; obstructing and hindering a police officer; and resisting arrest, Daulatzai retained an attorney and intends to sue Southwest Airlines.
The Point of View From Southwest Airlines
Reports from multiple sources — including the aforementioned video from ABC News — state that Daulatzai was unable to provide a medical certificate pertaining to her allergy to employees of Southwest Airlines, which was necessary to complete travel…
If a Customer is severely affected by allergies to an animal and notifies us of his/her allergy at the departure gate, we can ensure that the Customer with the allergy is seated as far away from the animal as possible.
Southwest is required by law to transport assistance and emotional support animals accompanying Customers with disabilities. Southwest requires that pets remain in an animal carrier throughout the duration of a flight. However, we cannot make such a requirement for assistance and emotional support animals. We also cannot require that Customers traveling with service animals provide advance notice of their intent to transport the animal. As such, we’re unable to provide advance notification if any animals will be traveling on a particular flight.
That statement is correct: apparently, all that employees of an airline — whether aboard an airplane or in a lounge at an airport — could lawfully do is ask two questions: is the dog a service animal required because of a disability; and what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
Members of the flight crew claim that they repeatedly attempted to explain the situation to Daulatzai after understanding that her allergy was sever enough to be potentially life-threatening, according to reports of Southwest Airlines — but she refused to leave the airplane peacefully and on her own accord.
Commenting definitively on this issue is difficult for me to do because I either do not have all of the facts; or conflicting information exists — so please allow me to break it down with isolated thoughts:
A communication problem may be the source of the angst which led to this situation, which unnecessarily was blown out of proportion. One might argue that Daulatzai may have been trying to use the allergy as a way of getting special treatment from members of the flight crew — but I do not necessarily believe that because she was seated near the last row at the rear of the aircraft, as indicated in the first video.
Could Daulatzai have said that she does not have a severe allergy — and perhaps the member of the flight crew did not catch the operative word not and thereby misinterpreted her statement? Perhaps Daulatzai did not emphasize the word not enough when asking about animals aboard the airplane? Either scenario is certainly possible — especially if there are other ambient noises aboard the aircraft or in the airport.
Were members of the flight crew being overly cautious? I do not think so. Transporting a person with an allergy severe enough that the person could possibly die during a flight is an experience nobody wants to go through.
Did Daulatzai overreact in this incident? That is indeed quite possible — especially when going through the stress of her elderly father about to undergo surgery, which certainly had her concerned if not worried.
Could members of the flight crew have been biased? That possibility always exists; but I cannot imagine why Daulatzai would be singled out for no reason. She seems to otherwise be someone who does not appear to be a threat. I certainly would have no qualms or second thoughts about traveling with her aboard an airplane.
Even though this incident occurred on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, I still do not believe that all of the facts have been revealed — or, at least, I do not believe that any of the conflicting statements have yet to be proven and resolved in favor of one over another.
“It’s a real conundrum, because if you disclose they can throw you off”, said Lianne Mandelbaum — who is the founder of The No Nut Traveler and questions whether or not the privacy of allergy sufferers is being abused by airlines — “but if you don’t you can’t get accommodations and may have a reaction mid-air.”
I have not seen any reports confirming that one passenger paid for transporting his or her pet and that the other was traveling with a legitimate emotional support animal — from what I understand, neither animal was classified as an actual service dog — but I will say that the abuse of passengers passing pets off as emotional support animals does not exactly help with resolving this issue.
Support animals versus passengers with allergies aboard airplanes has been a contentious and controversial issue for years with little to no resolution in sight — and that needs to change. As with legitimate service dogs, an official certification process needs to be implemented for people who need to travel with emotional support animals. I believe that would help reduce the number of beloved pets fraudulently being passed off as emotional support animals.
Even though airlines cannot definitively guarantee that an airplane is completely free of allergens, perhaps an improved process needs to be in effect to better arrange the seating of passengers so that as few problems as possible could occur — although that would be impossible to implement with 100 percent efficacy.
Finally, civil cooperation amongst passengers with each other would help to avoid many of these problems from occurring in the first place — and that is not just limited to passengers with allergies versus passengers transporting animals.
Source: Bill Dumas via Storyful.