MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A retired US combat veteran said he was discriminated against and humiliated at Miami International Airport.
He said American Airlines personnel prevented him from getting on his flight because he was traveling with his service dog.
After 20 years in the army, and countless hours of combat, Kevin Crowell's service dog, Bella, helps him manage a slew of physical injuries, along with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
"They have no idea that part of my spine was replaced from roadside bombs, said Crowell. "They don't have an idea that my shoulder was destroyed in Iraq. So now, I rely on her for a lot of things, and oftentimes I physically lean on her to help me through the day."
Last week, the dog Crowell's come to rely on became the reason American Airline staffers wouldn't let him board a flight at Miami International Airport. He'd flown to South Florida for a Wounded Warriors event in Key West, and on the way down from Jacksonville, Bella was allowed to fly with him no problem.
Before he could get on his flight back home from MIA, an American Airlines worker told him Bella wasn't allowed in the bulkhead row Crowell was ticketed for.
"The flight attendant told me she said the policy states no pets in bulk-heading, and I said, 'again, Bella's not a pet. She's a service dog. According to the law, she meets the requirements of a service dog," said Crowell.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 guarantees that service animals can travel with their owners, but Crowell says workers asked the group to get off the plane.
"I was beyond humiliated. My wife and I had to walk back down the jet-way past all the other passengers in complete, just, humiliation."
"This is a medical issue that you're violating. You're hurting someone, and you don't understand that."
The family had to rent a car and drive back to Jacksonville. Crowell's wife called American Airlines and a representative said the airline's Miami staff members will be re-trained on policies. The airline also offered the couple a full refund for their travel costs.
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