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Broward Woman and Service Dog Unfairly Kicked Off WestJet Flight, Lawsuit Says

Public nuisance?
Public nuisance?
Triple Tri via wikimedia commons

Face it: The glam days of air travel are dead and buried. Now, it's $50 for that carry-on, $6.75 for water from the cart -- plus tax -- though attitude from overworked flight attendants is gratis.

According to a lawsuit filed in South Florida, one air carrier went overkill with the crummy service on a flight out of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. A sick lady and her dog were treated poorly, and the entire plane had to turn around on the tarmac and return to the gate.

Barry and Melissa Adler have a beef with WestJet Airlines, a Calgary-based airline that flies to 88 destinations across the Western Hemisphere. In September 2012, the Broward couple were scheduled to catch a WestJet flight from Fort Lauderdale to Toronto.

According to their complaint, Melissa Adler suffers from a number of medical conditions, including complex regional pain syndrome, a nervous system aliment that causes constant pain. As a result, she has a service dog -- a four-pound Yorkie. Before the flight, the Adlers "provided medical documentation in order to obtain approval for travel" with the dog, the lawsuit says. WestJet in turn "provided written agreement" that they were good to fly with the pup.

But at the gate on the day of the flight, the couple were told that the head flight attendant was concerned the animal might disturb other passengers if Melissa sat in her aisle seat. The couple agreed to move. Once they boarded, Melissa took sleep medication, and soon, both she and the Yorkie were snoozing.

But as the plane headed for the runway, the head flight attendant allegedly told Barry Adler that "she was not comfortable" with the couple on the plane and that "the airplane would be returning to the gate." The Adlers, including loopy Melissa, had to exit. No explanation was provided.

"Our allegation is that the Adlers were removed from the airplane because of a disagreement over their service animal," says Nolen Klein, the couple's lawyer. "And I think it is incredible if a flight attendant was able to unilaterally decide to remove passengers from the flight."

That night, WestJet called to apologize and arranged for the couple to catch a flight the next day. Eventually, the Adlers filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation, which later found that WestJet had violated seven federal laws.

In late December, the couple filed a federal lawsuit against the airline based on claims of negligence and fraudulent representation. The case is still grinding through the legal system.

"We don't make public comments on court proceedings," WestJet's Robert Palmer told New Times in an email. "We speak through the documents we file and of course, during the proceedings themselves."




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