An American Airlines passenger is suing the airline after he was kicked off a flight so a dog could sit in his first class seat.
Dana Holcomb, of Killeen, Texas, was returning to Austin after a 53rd birthday celebration in April.
As he boarded the plane Holcomb noticed the passenger sitting next to him had her pet - a comfort dog with her.
Holcomb, who is allergic to dogs, immediately began to experience allergy symptoms.
The pet owner offered to switch seats, but no other passenger would give up their seat.
The flight crew and captain offered to move Holcomb to the back of the plane, but he declined.
Tensions flared and surveillance video shows the captain pointing his finger in Holcomb's face.
The airline would later accuse Holcomb of causing a scene and being uncooperative. But two witnesses disputed their side of the story.
Holcomb was kicked off the flight without his luggage or allergy medicine. He was not offered a connecting flight or hotel accommodations, according to his attorney.
He booked a hotel room at his expense for the night, and he caught another flight home the next day.
Holcomb filed a lawsuit against American Airlines for racial discrimination and infliction of emotional distress. "To be honest, it made me feel that I was less than a dog," he said.
"Dana was taken off a plane so a dog could fly first-class cabin," his attorney Reginald McKamie, Sr. told reporters, according to ABC affiliate KWTX.
"What American Airlines is doing is discrimination," McKamie said. "They have repeatedly humiliated African American citizens by throwing them off the plane, leaving them with no way home, no hotel, just throwing them off the plane."
American Airlines spokesman Curtis Blessing said Holcomb was offered a refund which he refused.
"They were then offered a seat in the main cabin to provide additional separation and were offered a refund for the difference in their first-class fare but also declined and remained confrontational," Blessing said in a statement.
An attorney who was in first class disputed the airline's version of the story, KXXV reports.
Jay Youngdahl, who is an executive platinum member, said he overheard the captain say Holcomb was likely to be a "danger" to other passengers and crew.
Youngdahl also said the captain invited the young woman and her dog into the cockpit before the flight, which is against FAA regulations.
As the story went viral over the weekend, American Airlines spokeswoman Lakesha Brown reached out to The Root late Monday night with the following explanation:
"Federal regulations require American Airlines to transport service and support animals. American makes every effort to accommodate all passengers, including those traveling with and seated near service or support animals. In the case of an allergy, we work to re-seat a passenger further away from the service or support animal.
Mr. Holcomb's seat was next to a customer with an emotional support animal. In an effort to accommodate Mr. Holcomb, the customer with the emotional support animal offered to switch seats with another customer so Mr. Holcomb could remain in his seat. Mr. Holcomb wasn’t satisfied with that solution, so he was given the option of a seat further away from the service animal in the main cabin with a refund in the difference in fare, which he also declined.
After all the attempts to accommodate Mr. Holcomb were declined and he refused to comply with crew member instruction, he was removed from the plane. Our team offered to rebook Mr. Holcomb and refunded his first-class ticket. American has not received [a] lawsuit but once we do we will review it and respond in court when appropriate."