Disabled Woman Kicked Out Of Airline Lounge Because Of Service Dog

SANTA CLARITA (CBSLA.com) — A Santa Clarita woman in a wheelchair said she was kicked out of an airline lounge because of her service dog.

Micaela Bensko was in tears, crumpled in pain when she said she was denied access to the Virgin Atlantic lounge at JFK International Airport in New York because she had a service dog.

In 2011, Bensko’s spine was severely injured in an accident, leaving her in a wheelchair. Service dog, Blue Bell, helps pull her.

She cannot sit for more than 30 minutes, That is why she said she paid for the Virgin Atlantic lounge so she could lie down before her flight.

But a lounge employee said no and Bensko caught it on video, which showed the employee saying: “With Virgin Atlantic policy with any service animal, you have to have some sort of paperwork.”

But according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, no documentation is needed, and disabled people with service dogs can go anywhere the public is allowed to go.

Bensko said the lounge was practically empty at the time but was still refused entry.

“I’m in too much pain. I’m sorry I can’t wait any longer. You guys are unbelievable,” Bensko said in the mobile phone video she recorded.

The employee called a manager. But Bensko said after 20 minutes, she had no choice but to lie down on the concrete floor at her terminal.

“This was death by a thousand cuts. I couldn’t take it anymore,” she told CBS2’s Andrea Fujii.

The mother of four said she did not want compensation from the airline; she just wanted to be a spokesperson for all who are disabled.

“Bring humanity back to traveling. That’s what I’m interested in,” Bensko said.

“As soon as we were made aware of this incident, we sent an urgent reminder to our Clubhouse teams to clarify the policy around support dogs, and will be investigating further to improve the way the situation was handled. It is never our intention to disappoint our customers, and we’re keen to speak directly with the customer to understand what improvements we can make to ensure this doesn’t happen again, and to offer our heartfelt apologies,” according to a statement released by Virgin Atlantic.

Comments

One Comment

  1. Too late Virgin, your staff should be familiar with the law for disabled persons. I am able bodied yet my mother and sister were in wheelchairs. At least have quick access to the information needed when dealing with someone obviously in distress. Unacceptable from what I hear is one of the better airlines.

  2. Training..training..training! After each session everyone shall sign a statement saying they were at the session & have to record their presence w/ their employee ID badge which should have their unique bar code.

  3. Hank Wershaw says:

    Amazing what cell phone videos has done to expose lousy customer service everywhere. Can you imagine all the abuse that occurred before cell phones came into play?

    1. This is the reason people are so short-tempered today. Everything is such a hassle even if one follows every stupid rule and regulation.

  4. John Douglas says:

    Sorry… calling your pet dog a Service animal does not work.

    If the reason you have that animal is to help with ‘anxiety’ then you are out of luck. Actual humans who are allergic to your pet need to use the airport.

    Good for you Virgin.

    1. John Douglas says:

      Whoops I take that back… Virgin even used the idiotic term ‘support animal’. What about my support goat? How about my support ‘gator?

      >>>
      Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.
      <<<

      1. yes and no. Examples of such work or tasks include… calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack

      2. Guido Jones says:

        Despite the fact that your goat “services” you, (or maybe you service the goat?) it is very different

      3. Hey, Idiot!! The dog PULLS the wheelchair!! Sounds like WORK to me!! Unless you were there and are privy to other facts NOT stated in the article, STFU! Your analogy does nothing but show your ignorance!!

    2. Guido Jones says:

      @John Douglas – did your mothers have any children that weren’t brain-dead? You are truly the typical prog.

      1. Guido Jones says:

        @John Douglas – and no Heather, “mothers” wasn’t a typo. You are truly a piece of garbage

    3. Are drunk and snide, too? Or just snide.

  5. atschmid5322 says:

    Virgin airlines can’t have riffraff polluting their lounges. You never know when obama might stroll thru on his way to a hang-gliding weekend with richard branson.

    1. Guido Jones says:

      or John Douglas, but she strikes me as being more of the Trailways crowd

  6. Airline have become the American Gestapo.

  7. Thom Wright says:

    Good for Virgin!!!

    Airplanes, Airports, Restaurants, Stores are full of pets masquerading as pets. The disabled community could insist this change by requiring paperwork but, most of the disabled community wants their pets with them, most of the disabled community is not actually disabled.

  8. Greg McBride says:

    Having seen this myself, the number of NON SERVICE animals being claimed AS service animals is getting silly…. Exactly how hard is it to have a single card that you carry like your license that lists the dog as a Service Animal? We are way to stupid about this…

  9. So she can`t set for more than 30 minutes how does she take a long flight. Airline seats are not known for their comfort. Something strange about this incident. Was she raveling first class coach or what. There has o be more to this story.

    1. Why on earth would you even ask?

  10. This article needs clarification for me. I would like to take some action on this but the article plainly says she was “kicked out” AND “denied access.” Which is it? Different response needed for these actions. Of course, VA won’t like either response.

  11. Susan Hayden says:

    Dog is probably much better behaved than most 2-legged passengers these days!

  12. Joey Suggs says:

    If you have extraordinary needs, bring your paperwork. If not, then live by the rules the rest of us have to live by. Take responsibility for yourself and quit whining.

    1. The ADA does not require that you present paperwork certifying your need or the training of a service animal.

    2. Joey, maybe if karma deals you a “crippling” blow, you can then educate yourself about the ADA and receive better treatment than this woman for YOUR service dog. NO PAPERS REQUIRED, Mein Herr.

  13. Joe Brown says:

    Maybe the service dog pooped over by the pate’

  14. blenderrecipes says:

    Anyone can buy a ‘service dog’ vest online.
    Those that do and are not disabled are causing problems like this for those that truly are.

  15. Yirmin Snipe says:

    If you have the money to have a service animal you should also have the ability to get some paperwork to prove it is really required for medical reason. The fact is too damn many people have abused the system just because they want to bring their dog, or cat or horse or whatever and it has to be brought under control. Paperwork needs to be required just like you need a parking tag to park in the handicapped parking spots.

  16. Virgin, get out the checkbook….make sure you have six zero’s in the amount.

    1. Seven would be even better. I hope this young lady is consulting with an attorney.

  17. Whoever treated this poor passenger like this needs to be fired. There is no excuse for ignorance of the law. The ADA MUST be abided by Virgin, United, et al no matter how much they hate the people they are supposed to serve. I too use a wheelchair….and if this happened to me (oh, I DO have a service animal, btw) my first call after returning home would be to my attorney’s office. Boycott Virgin airlines! Boycott United!

  18. Service animals are allowed everywhere under the ADA. However, inquiring minds want to know how this woman would survive a transatlantic flight if she can’t sit for more than thirty minutes?

    1. Hubert Smith says:

      Yes, Jennifer………there you go, injecting sanity.

    2. Where in the article did it say she was taking a transatlantic flight?? NOWHERE!! She was probably returning to Santa Clarita, CA which is where she’s from…although, it doesn’t state that either…. also, I’m no expert, but a dog needs training to pull a wheelchair on command, so I truly think this dog was very much a “Service Animal” and not a “make believe” phony service animal..

      1. If she’s flying from JFK to any SoCal airport, she’s going to be sitting for hours. I can’t think of any flight where one wouldn’t sit for at least an hour. Her story doesn’t add up. She probably didn’t either bring or get the requisite paperwork for the animal, or the animal was not an authentic service animal to begin with.

  19. just bring the damn paperwork with you in the future

  20. I don’t work in service and even I know the law regarding service animals. When in doubt, take the course that keeps your employer out of expensive lawsuits. Why would any employee take the course that has the highest chance of being expensive when the alternative was costless.

    It seems that people are in a contest to see who can act with the least intelligence.

  21. Don Graves says:

    Time for service dog ID badges.

  22. Ed Kirk says:

    The Virgin Air Mantra….”we don’t need no stinkin’ cripples”

    as they kick the poor woman and her service dog out of their nearly empty lounge

  23. Don Graves says:

    And I don’t care what the Service Dog Employee International Union thinks about it.

  24. Lou Cubbage says:

    After the way Branson slobbered and drooled over the OBamas after the election there is no way I will ever use that airlines ever again.

  25. Who made the arrangements? That person didn’t ask about/mention a service dog? Just another victim, I guess….

  26. Vicki StJohn says:

    I’m a bit confused by her story. She claims she “can’t sit for more than 30 minutes” without laying down. Please tell me what flight in or out of JFK where you don’t have to sit in the aircraft seat for more than 30 bogus story does not add up.

  27. Apologies are nice and OK…but they certainly don’t help at the time the incident is happening..I would recommend a request for special assistance from the airline when booking… and a copy of that particular airline policy with regard to service animals, and a copy of the animal’s rabies vaccine.. a little preprep can go a long way..

  28. Cindy Buck says:

    Geesh, what is with all the dog hater’s commenting here. I welcome ANY dog anywhere as long as it behaves and is not vicious. What’s it to you if the dog is an ‘official’ service dog or not.

  29. I will bet Richard Branson has already called her.

    And yes, this woman can thank all of the liars who bring their dogs everywhere and call them service dogs.

  30. Sue them! That might help them to “bring the humanity” back! Nothin like having to pay out some money to get their attention…..!!

  31. If she is that sick and in that type of pin why is she flying?

    1. Just because she is in a wheelchair doesn’t mean she can’t lead a normal life. Let’s all try a day in a wheelchair (blind or not blind) and let’s see how these comments would take a 360 degree turn. This woman has a right to move around like anyone else. She is an individual who has a life.

  32. Steve Klein says:

    Virgin America is actually the best in customer service of any US airline in my opinion. My father is blind and uses a guide dog. He always has the dog’s card in his wallet. We have him fly only on Virgin because they treat him so well. On his last flight the flight attendant told him there was an open seat in first class, and moved him and the dog to the nicer seat, no charge. We love Virgin.

    1. I agree. .. this really surprises me. Employee needs to be retrained.

  33. Steve Hollar says:

    I question the law that does not require proof of a dog being a “service dog”. Something really wrong here.

  34. ASIA FOR THE ASIANS, AFRICA FOR THE AFRICANS, WHITE COUNTRIES FOR EVERYBODY!

    Everybody says there is this RACE problem. Everybody says this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY into white countries.

    The Netherlands and Belgium are just as crowded as Japan or Taiwan, but nobody says Japan or Taiwan will solve this RACE problem by bringing in millions of third worlders and quote assimilating unquote with them.

    Everybody says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY white countries to “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-whites.

    What if I said there was this RACE problem and this RACE problem would be solved only if hundreds of millions of non-blacks were brought into EVERY black country and ONLY into black countries?

    How long would it take anyone to realize I’m not talking about a RACE problem. I am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem?

    And how long would it take any sane black man to notice this and what kind of psycho black man wouldn’t object to this?

    But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the white race, Liberals and respectable conservatives agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.

    They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white.

    Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.

  35. Frank Walker says:

    What we have here is yet another airline employee on a power trip.

  36. Obonzo’s boyfriend Branson is one sick puppy.

  37. The problem is…that too many people have ‘therapy’ dogs which are NOT included in the American disability act, and these dogs admittance is entirely up the owner of the property.

    So, what is a private owner suppose to do? There are many businesses that choice for various reasons to NOT allow pets, and if they can’t ask for proof of a service dog…how are they legally able to disclude non-service dogs?

  38. Airlines are becoming more totalitarian every day. Who’s training these people, former Stazi agents?

  39. Mike Morales says:

    Sounds like the woman has a legitimate need for her dog. Healthy people in my town drag their dogs into the grocery store like it’s a right.

  40. Okay so this really surprises me that an employee would not have enough common sense in year 2017 that you don’t deny access for handicapped folks with service dogs. Woman in a wheelchair and service dog is your paperwork. Wow I’m amazed at such ignorance of the law.

  41. kolt475 says:

    sue them show them no mercy, total meltdown of the airline industry

  42. People misuse the “service dogs” allowance. Far too many people use them to just keep their pets with them in restaurants and other places where they normally wouldn’t be allowed. The intent of the animal is for ESSENTIAL services, such as guidance for the blind. Her excuse that her animal is for “anxiety” reminds me of an aspect of another animal, horses***.

  43. Personally I’m sick of all the so called “service” and “therapy” animals on airplanes, in restaurants, at the supermarket, etc. Some places should just be dander, fur, and animal-free and some people shouldn’t assume they can bring their pets anywhere they wish just because they got a fake qualification from the State or county. Some whack job with a parrot on her shoulder sat down next to me at a Starbucks recently–society should not be subject to that. I’m allergic to dogs–what about my rights? This particular woman in the story at least seems legitimate–maybe these airlines should build animal-friendly rooms for the benefit of those with allergic reactions or those who simply think dogs should not be in some places where humans congregate? We should also change the laws and make it not so easy to qualify your dog, rat, or iguana as a service or therapy animal. Prove you have a legitimate need (wheel chair bound, blind, narcoleptic, etc) and I’ll give you my seat and deal with my allergies on the other side of the room. Otherwise if you’re one of the many entitled lunatics with emotional issues who needs a pet crayfish to get through the day, don’t expect sympathy or support when you start cleaning your fish tank next to me as part of your therapeutic regiment.

  44. John Norman says:

    How can she fly if she cannot sit for more than 30 minutes? Was she driven to the airport in the back of a pickup?

  45. Don Rhudy says:

    This old pilot with many hours and 70years 9months and 4 days in the present U.S.A. no longer flies commercial because of intrusion by the Federal Tyranny. I won’t have to experience anything like this for that good reason.

  46. Harry Buskin says:

    A lot of posts complain about abuse of service dog perks by “support dog” status animals. Whatever, it’s irrelevant. What flies the red flag is the line spoken by the lounge employee:

    ““With Virgin Atlantic policy with any service animal, you have to have some sort of paperwork.”

    some sort of paperwork? Like what? A court order? Frequent flyer card?

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