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.