Video: Airline Stops Wounded Veteran and Hero Service Dog from Boardin

Video: Airline Stops Wounded Veteran and Hero Service Dog from Boarding Plane

September 28, 2015

Video: Airline Stops Wounded Veteran and Hero Service Dog from Boarding Plane

An American Airlines gate agent refused to allow a wounded veteran board a plane with his service dog and brought the veteran's wife to tears as airline staff "bullied" the couple, even saying the dog was a "fake" service dog, in front of other passengers waiting to board the American Airlines flight. And after refusing to allow wounded veteran, Captain Jason Haag, to board with his service dog, the airline would not even retrieve the couple's checked bags leaving them stranded with no clothes.

After catching wind of the airline's actions, staff members with the American Humane Association re-booked the couple's flights, found them a hotel and got them some clean clothes. Now, according to a Fox News video, American Airlines has issued an apology but would not reimburse the veteran and his wife for their plane tickets.

While in the past we have reported on many inspirational stories of injured veterans and their service dogs, it is also important to share stories like this one to help bring exposure to this issue of wounded veterans and their service dogs being denied services. As Captain Jason Haag noted in his interview with Fox News, even though there are laws on the books against these discriminatory practices - no matter if it is a wounded military veteran or anyone else with a disability - occurrences like his continue happen.

 

Wounded Veteran and Service Dog Denied from Boarding Plane

Here is some background info on Haag and his service dog Axel along with brief summary of the incident. Captain Jason Haag is a former Marine who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and is a recovering alcoholic.

Haag was paired with Axel in 2012 through K9s for Warriors - a group that connects disabled veterans with service dogs. The wounded veteran credits his service dog Axel for saving his life as, along with dealing with PTSD and alcoholism, Haag was battling severe depression and ingesting 30 medications to help him make it through the day. Now, the German Shepard is his battle buddy helping him live a much fuller, healthier life.

When the incident with the American Airlines gate agent occurred, the wounded veteran and his service dog were returning home, along with Haag's wife, from the 2015 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards in Los Angeles. It was at those awards where Axel was named Service Dog of the Year.

As Haag explained in a Facebook post, "We made it easily through security, turned our bags in, ate lunch at the airport and then sat at the gate for over 2 hours in clear view of the employees. Five minutes before boarding they made an announcement the plane was full and that's when I was pulled out of line."

After being pulled out of line, American Airlines staff demanded proof that Axel was a service dog even though Axel had a harness and vest clearly identifying him as a service dog, and the airline was given credible verbal assurance at the time a boarding pass was issued.

Both of these things, according to the airlines own requirements, are all that should have been needed for the service dog and veteran to be allowed to board the plane.

For the American Airlines staff, however, that wasn't enough, and they even went on to accuse Axel of being a "fake" service dog while questioning the combat veteran's disabilities and asking for further proof.

“Well I answered all their questioned but didn't provide "paperwork" because 1) it's illegal to ask for and against federal law 2) I don't carry it because I've never had issue 3) I called ahead and everything was fine 4) but I did provide an ID to try and appease them. But to no avail,” Haag posted on his Facebook page.

 

Humane Society Says Incident is a Wake-up Call to All Airlines

According to a news release from the American Humane Society...
American Airlines issued an apology today, and American Humane Association is calling on them and all airlines to better train their staff to meet the needs of our nation’s brave veterans and others who require the help of a service animal. American Humane Association supports both our two-legged and four-legged veterans and believes we must all stand up for all those who serve our country and help and defend those in need. There should be no room and zero tolerance for discrimination against these heroes.
“Service animals are absolutely essential to so many people who struggle with emotional and physical challenges,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane Association. “While airlines certainly have the right to maintain appropriate protocols, these should not and cannot prevent life-enhancing and life-saving service animals from accompanying the people who so greatly need them. In this case, the airline did not even follow its own guidelines. We call upon the company to reimburse the costs endured by Captain Haag in the course of this regrettable action, and on all airlines to better train their staff.”

 

 

About Healing Heroes Network

Hero Giveaways is a proud supporter of Healing Heroes Network. Healing Heroes Network is committed to healing America’s Heroes by providing financial assistance for quality care to military personnel injured in the line of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan since 9/11/01. Join our mission in healing our Heroes by supporting our wounded Veterans through communication, education, and community outreach. Healing Heroes Network strives to bring awareness to the often untreated injuries sustained in war and the desperate need for our services. If you are aware of a wounded Hero injured after September 11, 2001, in need of medical services not being provided, or if you are a medical provider willing to join the network, please contact Healing Heroes Network directly at 727-781-4376, or visit www.healingheroes.org Other Articles
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33 Responses

Cindy Baird
Cindy Baird

February 22, 2016

This not acceptable behavior on the part of the airline. I believe that this family should be given not only re-embersment but also a public apology for this dishonor.

Tennie Caldwell
Tennie Caldwell

February 22, 2016

It is inexcusable that the airlines have not better trained their staff in the knowledge of this type of situation. The airlines should also definitely reimburse any and all costs incurred by Haag!

Dan L McPherson
Dan L McPherson

February 22, 2016

The treatment this veteran and his dog received are not acceptable. American Airlines should issue a press release of this very poor
treatment with an apology and reimbursement. The employees should be reprimanded used as a means to educate other employees.

Kate
Kate

February 22, 2016

“Better trained staff?” What kind of training do you provide to ignorant heartless people?? If I ever witness such a thing that gate person would be seriously injured. Now that would be training.

Grace Farmer
Grace Farmer

February 22, 2016

As a lifetime gold member I am going to make a total stink about this.

Edwin
Edwin

February 22, 2016

AS OF RIGHT NOW I AM BOYCOTTING AMERICAN AIRLINES!!!!!! …STAND UP BE A WARRIOR AND DO THE SAME….

lisa
lisa

February 22, 2016

fire there asses how disrespectful

Robert Jasinski
Robert Jasinski

February 22, 2016

I am a disabled Vietnam Veteran and I do not fly any longer. However, should the occasion arise that I need to, I will NEVER fly American Airlines. How disrespectful and inexcusable their actions were against this wounded Hero and his beautiful Service Animal. I am so hurt after reading this article and at a loss for further words to express my sincere disapproval of the actions by the airlines. I thank Capt. Haag for his service and I thank Axel for taking care of the Captain. God bless both of you, and your family, for everything you have done for us. It’s a shame you ran up against people that do not have a clue and discriminate! How shameful American Airlines.

Susan Ifland
Susan Ifland

February 22, 2016

Shame on American Airlines. This should not have happened. Everyone should consider not flying with them until they make this right. Considering there name, American, they should not further cause problems for our American Heroes. Come on American, man up and do right by our soldiers and their familys.

KAREN
KAREN

February 22, 2016

Soooo, they don’t get fined for breaking the law? Or have to pay back this couple for the tickets as well as the trouble, embarrassment, and the aggravation to a man who already has PTSD? What is the law for if not for this? The staff should have been fired for starters at the very least. As a people we can ban American Airlines. I WILL.

Hamilton Todd
Hamilton Todd

February 22, 2016

American Airlines is nothing more than a flying cattle car airline. I would never fly them and especially after reading this article.

Sharon Tombari
Sharon Tombari

February 22, 2016

I agree Cindy, you are absolutely right. they should pay them back for tickets they wouldn’t let them use and issue a public apology. I wouldn’t fly this airline ever and I’m sure a lot of other people will be boycotting them as well after reading this. if it weren’t for these heroes american airlines wouldn’t exist!!!!

Donna Sue Jolliffe
Donna Sue Jolliffe

February 22, 2016

This was totally uncalled for by American Airlines. Staff should have already been trained on how to handle veterans with service dogs. American Airlines broke the law and should be held accountable! American Airlines should also be madeto reimburse the Haag family for the tickets and also be made to pay extra to the family for distress and pain caused to the family. $50,000 sounds like a good amount to give to the Haag’s! American Airlines also needs to realize these veterans serve and served to protect them especially since 9/11.
I as a disabled veteran refuse to use an airline so disrespectful to disabled vets and their service dogs!

Edward East
Edward East

February 22, 2016

I would sue the shit out of them. I won’t be flyin AA anytime soon word of mouth to all of my flying friends don’t fly American airlines!!!

chris
chris

February 22, 2016

I will never fly with them again

David Vaughan
David Vaughan

February 22, 2016

I think the airlines should give Captain free flights forever. There is no excuse for stupidity or ignorance and they should lose their jobs for it.

Bart Broadnax
Bart Broadnax

February 22, 2016

Leave it to a huge pompous airline to show its asininity. American Airlines was definitely un-American in the handling of this situation. They need to take more steps beyond just an apology to make this right. Sometimes I don’t understand people, and sometimes it makes perfect, ugly sense.

Brenda Lowrimore
Brenda Lowrimore

February 22, 2016

Shame on American Airlines for treating a warrior who fought for THEIR freedom, in this manner! As a military mom myself, I’m afraid that had I been there, I would’ve raised the biggest stink that would’ve possibly caused a major scene. Talk about adding to his PTSD, and his poor wife! Good grief, my blood pressure rises, just thinking about this. American Air employees involved in this, aren’t fit to be in the same room as this warrior and his service dog. Shame on them! I hope that American Air not only educates itself, but also takes those same employees, and trains the ignorance out of them!!

Regald Smith
Regald Smith

February 22, 2016

If an airline refuses to allow someone to board, they should be required to reimburse the individual tickets. Unfortunately, this is a big black eye for an airline that calls itself “American”. An airline that I will never use after seeing this story. Very shameful, American Airlines. Where is your respect for our men in uniform, and their hero service dogs.

Renee
Renee

February 22, 2016

Perhaps the AA is really for Alcoholics Anonymous. My Dad served in Vietnam and I grew up in the military. I work as a volunteer with an organization the helps soldiers finds places where their pets can be fostered when the soldiers are sent overseas. It has helped so many and it is nationwide. I will fly any airline except American when I need to fly. My friends and relatives and I are willing to pay more if necessary so we can stay off this miserable excuse for an airline with poorly trained staff.

Paul
Paul

February 22, 2016

I think this brave family should start a change.org petition to get people aware of this despicable behavior and push (Un)American Airlines to give a public apology and not only refund their tickets but offer this soldier and his family, dogs are family, a trip anywhere they fly to.

Betsy Wetsy
Betsy Wetsy

February 22, 2016

Everyone Boycott American Airlines. Their Stupidity is asinine. Thank you all Veterans for your service past & present. I hope this young gentleman is getting better from his injuries.

Teresa
Teresa

February 22, 2016

Everyone should boycott American Airlines because there is nothing American about them. Give that man who is an American hero his money back plus a free trip

Carol
Carol

February 22, 2016

Shame on American Airlines. It is UnAmerican to treat this veteran, his wife and his service dog in this manner. This man has put his life on the line for our freedom. Both of my sons have served this country. Every veteran deserves our respect. American Airlines should reimburse this couple, fire the employees and issue a HUGE public apology. A year’s worth of free flights wouldn’t hurt either.

Barb
Barb

February 22, 2016

This is totally unacceptable. I will never fly American Airlines. The very least they could do is refund the money for the tickets. They SHOULD do more.

Donna Ferine
Donna Ferine

February 22, 2016

Robert, you said it beautifully. I agree with everything you said. A sincere thank you for your service to you, to my Vietnam Veteran husband, to my father, a WWII, Korean WAr, and Vietnam War vet, and to Capt. Hagg….our country owes all servicemen and women our gratitude.

Susan
Susan

February 22, 2016

The Airline was WRONG this man is not a FAKE nither is his DOG. I’m absent by the way people acts about OUR service men & women.
When I can I give to the WOUNDED WARRIES & the DVA. GOD BLESS THE USA.
Sorry about my spelling, but u get my drift.
My husband belong to the DVA & Igive when I can.
THANK U FOR SERVING OUR COUNTRY

Teresa Rardin
Teresa Rardin

February 22, 2016

I want to thank the Captain for his service, his wife for hers as well. American Airlines should be fined for what they have done. There should be laws protecting people with disabilities from this kind of treatment. Not only was he bullied, humiliated and they attempted to shame him. They delayed him and took away his right to travel on the flight he had tickets for. Every single person involved needs to go through training and then they need to be fired. I am very serious about it in that order. American AIrlines needs training from the top down to the very bottom. A company that could train them would be Delta Airlines. I am handicapped and Delta gets me wherever I need to go in whatever airport I am in swiftly, competently and with care and friendly faces! Try them! I am sorry for the problems he experienced.

Ronald Shattles
Ronald Shattles

February 22, 2016

I applaud this Captain for his service.I too am a disabled veteran and I was in the USMC.I don’t fly anymore and have not flown since 911.I am wondering why the Government has not stepped forward knowing this has happened and is happening everyday.I have some problems when eating out and I contact the owners of the establishments and voice my concerns of what I have found wrong and ask them to correct it.So far this has helped.
As for this Airline I agree with the refund and the thought of them giving this Marine and his wife free flying for the rest of their life (and the Dog) and as for the employee’s involved they should be fired for making fun of a disabled person and dis-regarding the laws and making the airline look bad…oh wait they made their on company look bad.

Video: Service Dog Helps Heal Family after Veteran Loses Battle with PTSD | herogiveaways
Video: Service Dog Helps Heal Family after Veteran Loses Battle with PTSD | herogiveaways

February 22, 2016

[…] service dogs like Honor are removed from the family once the person they were assigned to work with dies. These […]

Windchyme
Windchyme

February 22, 2016

Dick,

If he has a disability of what they like to call a “physical” nature he does not have to show paperwork by law- you would take that right away from him and make him show paperwork like jews in nazi germany had to? If PTSD is his only disabling condition then he does have to show paperwork signed by a dr by law as they consider PTSD a mental disability and as discriminatory as it is those with mental disorders, under law, can be required to show an airline paperwork from a doctor. I happen to hate that they make that discrimination. Also a dog that just makes you feel better is not a service dog, service dogs are trained to do physical tasks for their handler (and yes there are many physical tasks a dog for mental disorder can be trained to do to assist).

As a person with a hidden disability with an owner trained rottweiler service dog (never mind I also happen to be an expert service dog trainer that has worked with many other dogs and handlers- you’d never be able to guess it by looking at me, you’d never be able to guess alot of things about me, nor recognize the clues that are there to see for what they are) I’d love if you came up and confronted me about being fake. So fake that I’ve been challenged TWICE this year by state and local government as being fake- because- oh yeah they up and made up in their heads that I was because they have decided so and they are never wrong don’t you know…when I escalated it to a legal level immidiately and started laying out the proof and the paperwork to the lawyers that I and my service dog are completely legal in every way…..the government entities involved tripped over themselves and nearly broke their necks backtracking out of their challenge. There is no particular paperwork that makes a service dog team legal. A doctor can write a letter that you are disabled but they know nothing professionally about dogs. A trainer (any trainer) can certify that a dog has particular training and passed particular tests even…that is only as good as the honesty of the trainer and the strictness of their standards. You can go online and get “official looking” service dog ID cards if you have the cash to pay for them with no proof of any training at all or disability…they carry no force of law whatsoever. The majority of valid handlers absolutely refuse to have anything to do with these cards and showing any other paperwork because nowadays people are talking their doctors into writing letters for service dogs when there is no disability or need just so they can take their dog with them. And some handlers are now refusing to “dress” their dogs in particular dress or put identifying patches on them because the same fakers get the vests online, plaster them with patches and stop just short of a neon sign trying to convince people they are real service dogs. Couple that with all these so called agencies out there, particularly claiming to train dogs for vets who get dogs wherever or use the dog the person has whether it is suited and safe or not, Do a little basic training for a couple weeks (it takes many, many months minimum to properly train a service dog) hand the dog to the vet and tell them the dog has been training for months. The dogs often are lucky to have mastered sit, stay and down and half the time are distractable as all heck and aggressive with at least other service dogs. For this service these agencies issue paperwork like you speak of in exchange for an insane amount of money. I have two of them in my local area. Not that there aren’t real and legal and valid agencies doing a good job, cause there are…but just because someone got their dog from an agency who gave them a piece of paper, that means nearly nothing and the courts recognize that. That is the REAL skinny from the inside.

Real, legal handlers are sick and tired of the fakes, we’re sick and tired of how we are treated because of the fakes and our tempers are getting really short and threadbare about now. A simple run for milk and eggs so you can cook breakfast for the kids in the morning and that should take you only a few minutes and be relatively stress free turns into an hour or more long proposition that ends with you in pretty rough shape…you have all the people that like your dog and want to stop you in every aisle to ask questions (bless your hearts, at least you have a kind attitude) that take 15 minutes each if you try not to be abrupt or rude. Then there is dealing with the ones that want to put their hands all over your dog even though you declined petting for now. Then you run into one of the fake dogs that is in a cart and yapping incessantly about your service dog while one of those petting people fawns over it because it isn’t actually needing to work, it has all the time to socialize, who you try to get past quickly because you’re embarrassed by all the rucous you’d never let your dog cause to turn into another aisle. Then you have the A hole like yourself that stops you in another aisle and loudly and embarassingly announces that you are a fake to the curious looks of everyone around. Then it’s another good half hour as you first shoot to a rolling boil in your head then you attempt to educate the jerk politely, but since they know everything they start to cuss you out….so then it’s a matter of since you’re humiliated and embarrassed already…what the heck go for broke and you yell out so loud so that the entire store can hear that you need a manager NOW! Since this jerk wanted everyones attention lets just go for broke here and get everyone over here to see. So you deal with the manager while people stand around watching who ends up throwing the jerk out on their ear or calls the cops if they won’t leave. Then you, severely triggered and your disabling condition really kicking up because of the stress and now feeling like you’re going to throw up, trudge to the front of the store to pay for your milk and eggs. On the way out you are again stopped by people who want to ask about what the jerk said and give their opinions whether nice or not too. Just an FYI, by the time you get home, and its a question whether you can drive safely enough to make it home as triggered off as you are, you’re in such bad condition that you’re in no condition to cook for the kids in the morning….you toss them some cold cereal and go back to your bed because you haven’t been able to amp down enough to sleep for most of the night. Geez thanks so much.

Of course it isn’t like that every time….but usually some variation of at least one of those events goes on just about every time. If the dog is behaving badly, in an untrained manner I can see saying something because service dogs are supposed have very good behavior (though it might be a dog in training that is momentarily lightly screwing up- some states allow dogs in training) but you don’t know if a person is or is not disabled. Like I said, I’d just love for you to approach me and confront me about being a fake….I’d make mincemeat of you and you’d deserve it richly.

Dick B.
Dick B.

February 22, 2016

While I support the fact that American Airlines was rather UN-American with their treatment of the Captain and his dog, one thing in the article bothered me. The staff at that boarding gate was given VERBAL confirmation that the dog was indeed a therapy dog, including the vest, there is actual certification that the Captain or his wife should have been carrying with them.

I see people bringing their dogs into establishments, that have posted clearly, NO ANIMALS with the exception of Assistance Dogs. I have NO PROBLEM taking people to task for bringing their flea ridden dirty poodle into a grocery store. I have never been wrong in my confronting people. Never have I asked someone to see their certificates, and actually had one show me one. In other words, every single person I confront, does NOT have a therapy dog. These people are the ones thta will have a gate attendaant confronting people, like the Captain. Had the Captain had the certificate with him, I believe, this would have been a non-issue. Now, don’t get me wrong, the airline is still in the wrong, as Axel’s harnes is clearly marked that he is a working assistance K-9. You can’t just go to the mall and buy a harness like that, All I’m saying is, the Captain does have a small share of the blame, and I do mean small.

I know I am pi$$ing some off with this post, and for that, I appologize, however, one thing I took away from my military career was personal responsibility. My attitude about that, and brutal honesty has bit me in the butt a few times, for example, being stopped for speeding and not having my license with me has cost me a fine or two in the past, but as I told the trooper, I was the one that left my wallet at home.
The fact that American Airlines has not reimbursed the family for their flights, or made any other sort of restitution is appauling, and American Airlines will never see even one dollar from me.

Mike Mello
Mike Mello

February 22, 2016

You said it was illegal to ask.It’s now your civic duty to press. Criminal charges on the one who violated the law by asking illegal questions.You say you are outraged by the way that the airlines treated you?You have an obligation to us to Litigate them.You have a civic duty to criminally prosecute for larceny the ones who refused to return your property.If you don’t react by doing these things,then you are just as guilty as they are.Unless we start putting our foot down to actively stop these things from happening,then it will just keep occurring.

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