American Airlines Sued by Allergic Black Man Claiming He Was Kicked Off Flight 'So a Dog Could Fly First Class'

An American Airlines customer who says he was left stranded after being forced off a plane in April "so a dog could fly first class" is suing the travel operator.

Dana Holcomb, of Killeen, Texas, is seeking damages from the company and said this week in a statement alongside his attorney, Reginald McKamie, Sr., that another aim of his case is to change the discrimination policies of the U.S.-based airline, KWTX reported.

The incident occurred in April as Holcomb was flying from Las Vegas to Austin after his 53rd birthday, a trip which had a connecting flight in Phoenix.

As he told local media at the time, the man, who was flying in the first class cabin, found he had been assigned a seat beside a woman who was traveling with her support dog. Holcomb, who is allergic to dogs, said he began to suffer signs of a reaction after just a few minutes.

Holcomb said the woman saw he was flustered and she tried but failed to exchange seats with another passenger in the first class cabin. That was when the captain and flight crew became involved, allegedly asking Holcomb to move to a seat towards the back of the plane.

The captain was caught on camera pointing in Holcomb's face, KXXV reported. Despite the woman finding a passenger willing to exchange seats, officials allegedly called security and Holcomb was removed from the plane in Phoenix, without his luggage or medication.

"Dana was taken off an airplane so a dog could fly first-class cabin," attorney McKamie, Sr. told reporters in Texas on Tuesday while announcing the legal action, KWTX reported.

"What American Airlines is doing is discrimination," McKamie, Sr. said. "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."

In April, an American Airlines spokesperson alleged Holcomb had been "confrontational" during the incident, but an attorney who was aboard the flight refuted the claim. The witness, Jay Youngdahl, told KXXV he heard the captain saying the man was likely to be a "danger."

A spokesperson for the airline said in a statement this week: "If a lawsuit is filed, American will review it and respond in court when appropriate. We are proud to serve customers of all backgrounds and are committed to providing a positive, safe travel experience for everyone who flies with us.

"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.

"If the customer is still not comfortable flying, we will re-book them on the next available flight to their destination."

Holcomb said he was not offered another flight and was forced to spend roughly $1,700 for a seat on a Delta plane the next day after being stranded. Reflecting on the incident in a KXXV interview in April, he said: "To be honest it made me feel less than a dog."

American Airlines
A Boeing 737-A23 operated by American Airlines takes off from JFK Airport on August 24, 2019. Bruce Bennett/Getty
American Airlines Sued by Allergic Black Man Claiming He Was Kicked Off Flight 'So a Dog Could Fly First Class' | News