Woman Sues British Airways After She Was Refused Boarding With Emotional Support Dogs
A New York woman, Sharon Kao, is suing British Airways after she says she was denied boarding with her “emotional support” dogs, which she claims she needs in order to keep her anxiety in order. Kao was denied boarding with the dogs in Paris, France from a manger for OpenSkies, an airline owned by British Airways. Kao claims she was allowed to travel with the two Maltese emotional support dogs on the flight to Paris, after she showed a doctor’s note to airline staff.
Ms. Kao filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York and is seeking an unspecified amount for the “humiliation” that she faced from confrontational staff. Kao alleges that after showing the airline supervisor the doctor’s note, the employee told her “It’s not enough to fly on my flight. I don’t care what it says. I am in charge, and I decide if you can fly on my airline.”
In a letter, Ms. Kao’s doctor claims that she suffers from “deep anxiety” and “a panic disorder, especially when traveling.”
Kao has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation, which has said that British Airways and OpenSkies violated federal regulations by not letting her board with the animals.
Emotional Support Animals and Flying
The story comes as a recent storm of attention has come down on the use of emotional support animals on aircraft. Some reports have suggested that the federal government may begin reexamining its regulations to see if they can work to clarify them, or diminish the likelihood of people abusing the system to fly their pets for free. It has become easy for people to get a doctor’s note from an online emotional support website, which allows people to fly with the pets for free, without having to pay the fee airlines usually charge for pets.
It’s hard to say for certain whether the woman does need to dogs or whether she has labeled the dogs emotional support so she can fly with them from free, but it is clear that federal regulations allow her to fly with the dogs, and so it seems under current regulations OpenSkies was probably unjustified in its actions, as confirmed by the Department of Transportation.