Last updated: 02:24 PM ET, Sun October 30 2016

After Multiple Denied Flights with Service Dog, Army Veteran sues American Airlines

Impacting Travel | American Airlines | Jessica Kleinschmidt | October 30, 2016

After Multiple Denied Flights with Service Dog, Army Veteran sues American Airlines

photo courtesy of Lisa McCombs 

It was a 48-hour nightmare for decorated Army veteran Lisa McCombs.

A year ago before McCombs, who had served in Iraq, tried to board her American Airlines flight to her home in Gulfport, Mississippi. As McCombs waited to board, she was approached by an airline agent who asked "ummm you're boarding with that?" According to the suit and The Washington Post, the agent asked this in a condescending tone towards McComb's service dog Jake. The Labrador is relied upon to help with her with her anxiety and panic before it overwhelms her and is a certified disability dog. 

This was just the beginning.

McCombs was then "repeatedly interrogated, stressed and humiliated, causing her mental health to suffer." She missed her flight and was then "verbally assaulted" by two agents who redundantly asked for explanations for her disability and asked how the service dog helped. She then told the suit the conduct of the agents and others was "falsifying her disability" and the tone was "so bad strangers began scolding the agents and tried to comfort McCombs." She even mentioned how she was an "anxious mess" during the interrogation to agents so they would know the PTSD she suffered from was certainly apparent. 

After cursing out in frustration, the agents called law enforcement who offered to take McCombs to a shelter for the night once an agent forced her to leave the airport.

McCombs then booked another flight with an American customer service agent who specifically made a note in the system in regards to Jake saying he was indeed a service animal. However, when she arrived at the airport, it was the same scenario from the previous day. This time there was also a situation when it came to Jake's certification date. 

According to The Washington Post, the suit declares negligence, breach of contract and violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. McCombs is seeking compensation for her airline tickets, legal fees, and medical treatment. In addition, she is pursuing damages from American Airlines for "reckless disregard of her rights."

McCombs eventually arrived home two days after she was originally scheduled. The Post adds, Jim Palmersheim, a senior manager of Military and Veterans Programs for American Airlines, reached out to her expressing “how embarrassed” the company was about the incident. Palmersheim explained that the airline “didn’t do the right thing” and asked McCombs if she’d like to be attend an event for veterans and whether she wanted “some international, first class tickets.”

The suit is currently pending.

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