Dana Holcomb of Killeen, Texas, is seeking damages from American Airlines after he says he was kicked off of a plane “so a dog could fly first class” back in April. Holcomb was flying from Las Vegas to Austin with a connecting flight in Phoenix. Holcomb, who had been flying in a first-class cabin, realized he was seated next to a woman who was traveling with an emotional support dog. The problem? Holcomb, who is allergic to dogs, said he began suffering from an allergic reaction within just a few minutes.
How did the airline handle this sensitive situation? According to Holcomb, not well.
Holcomb said the woman at first tried to switch seats with another person in the first class cabin. That didn’t work. From there, the captain and flight crew allegedly asked Holcomb to move to a seat in the back of the plane.
Holcomb says that the woman eventually found a passenger willing to switch seats, but that officials called security instead. Holcomb says this escalated into him being removed from the plane without his medication or luggage.
Now, Holcomb is working with attorney Reginald McKamie Sr. to not only receive damages from the airline but to change the company’s discrimination policies.
"Dana was taken off an airplane so a dog could fly first-class cabin," McKamie said as reported by KWTX.
"What American Airlines is doing is discrimination," McKamie continued. "They have repeatedly humiliated African American citizens by throwing them off the plane, leaving them with no way home, no hotel, just throwing them off the plane."
A statement from a spokesperson for American Airlines offers the following: "Regulations require American Airlines to transport service and support animals. American makes every effort to accommodate all passengers, including those traveling with and seated near service or support animals. In the case of an allergy, we work to re-seat a passenger further away from the service or support animal.”
At the time of the incident, an American Airlines spokesperson said that Holcomb had been “confrontational.” Mind you, staying cool, calm, and collected while having an allergic reaction is not the norm. Even so, Jay Youngdahl, a passenger on the plane who witnessed the incident, told KVVX that Holcomb wasn’t confrontational. He also told the station that he’d overheard the captain saying the passenger was likely to be a “danger,” which again circles back to the possibility of racial bias in all of this.
Would the captain assume that a white person would be a “danger” when they are experiencing a health problem? Or are people of color—and especially black men—read as more aggressive and violent than white people?
McKamie gave a statement to Yahoo Lifestyle, saying, “Mr. Holcomb is suing American Airlines so that this will not happen to others. In 2017 the NAACP issued a travel Advisory because of American Airlines' discriminatory practices towards African-American travelers. The discriminatory practices the NAACP cited in 2017 continue to this day. Mr. Holcomb was put off the plane so that a dog could fly in the first-class cabin. A veteran, who served to protect all Americans, he is now fighting so that all Americans can feel as though they are equal citizens when traveling.”
Wondering how Holcomb got home? He says he wasn’t offered another flight. Instead, he spent about $1,700 on a Delta flight the next day after being stuck at the airport. When speaking to KXXV in April, he said, "To be honest it made me feel less than a dog."
Oh: And it was a trip to celebrate his 53rd birthday.