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Cabin crew lock woman's emotional support dog in toilet during flight, lawsuit claims

Cathy Adams

A woman is suing American Airlines after claiming cabin crew locked her emotional support dog in the plane bathroom during a flight.

Avigail Diveroli, from Florida, was flying in business class from Miami to Los Angeles with comfort dog Simba in April this year.

According to the lawsuit filed with the court in Miami, Ms Diveroli claims she was told to lock up Simba in the bathroom for the last part of the flight, adding that the cabin crew member “started slamming” the dog’s portable kennel with the door to the bathroom at one point.

Ms Diveroli, who was pregnant and suffered from severe anxiety, claims that American Airlines confirmed twice to her before the flight that Simba could accompany her in business class.

The US Department of Transportation allows emotional support animals onboard to assist people with disabilities. Airlines can determine which animals qualify as comfort pets, but most tend to be dogs or cats.

Once onboard, Ms Diveroli alleges that a flight attendant told her that the dog was not allowed in the cabin and that she was violating Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) regulations. She then claims that the cabin crew member told her that she would be “cuffed” when the plane landed in California.

The passenger was then downgraded to a different seat mid-flight, according to the lawsuit.

Ms Diveroli is suing for $75,000 in damages.

An American Airlines spokesperson said: “Our professional crews are there to ensure the safety and comfort of all customers. In this case, the customer’s dog was travelling as a pet rather than an emotional support animal or service animal. FAA regulations require pets to stay in kennels that fit under the seat, however, this kennel didn’t fit under the seat. The flight crew tried to handle the situation in accordance with FAA regulations.

“Also, this travel was booked on a 777, which doesn’t allow pets in the premium cabin. Our team at the airport in Miami offered to rebook the passenger on a later flight, but they declined, and opted to take a seat with the pet in the main cabin.”

US-based carriers have recently tightened up their rules over which emotional support pets can be brought onboard.

American Airlines now only permits a cat, dog or miniature horse to be brought onboard as an emotional support animal.

Denver-based Frontier Airlines also only permits cats and dogs, which is the same policy as low-cost giant Southwest.

It follows passengers trying to board flights with animals such as squirrels, peacocks and a turkey.