The seemingly endless parade of airline apologies continues apace today, with Virgin Atlantic admitting one of its employees shouldn’t have told a disabled woman she couldn’t enter the airline’s airport lounge with her service dog.
The traveler, who uses a wheelchair after a severe spinal injury in 2011, says she was recently refused entry to Virgin Atlantic’s lounge at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York when she couldn’t provide paperwork for her service dog, reports CBS Los Angeles.
She can’t sit for more than 30 minutes without extreme pain, she says, so she had paid for the lounge in order to lie down on a couch before her flight. Her dog helps pull her wheelchair, and wears a vest indicating it’s a service animal.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, airlines — and other businesses and organizations that provide goods or services to the public — are “not allowed to request any documentation for a service dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability.”
But the woman says that although the lounge was almost empty, a lounge employee told her that it was Virgin Atlantic policy to provide “some sort of paperwork” in order to enter the lounge with a service dog.
Although the employee called a manager, the woman says she waited for 20 minutes and then had to lie down on the concrete floor of the terminal.
“I’m in too much pain. I’m sorry I can’t wait any longer. You guys are unbelievable,” she says in a video she recorded during the interaction.
She’s not looking for money, but wants to call attention to the issue in an effort to “bring humanity back to traveling.”
Virgin said in a statement that it immediately sent an “urgent reminder” to its staff to clarify policy around support dogs upon learning of the incident, and will be investigating further to improve procedures for the future.
“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,” the airline said.