Woman & her service dog booted off Ryanair flight to Ibiza
Sophia Costabal managed to catch one of the few flights running today, as the budget airline grapples with cancellations, but found herself being escorted off the plane when staff refused to let her service dog fly between Valencia and Ibiza.
Service dogs are trained to help people with disabilities. Many are used by people suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), major anxiety issues or phobias.
Despite producing all the relevant paperwork for her pet and a pre-approval email from Ryanair, Sophia was told she would not be able to fly and was made to leave the plane, minutes before take-off.
Ryanair staff at check-in and the boarding gate didn’t object – but apparently had a change of heart.
“I had a confirmation email to say the service dog is confirmed and I had my seat and I got to the airport, I checked in there were no problems,” Sophia told RT.
“I was in my seat when three people came over to me, I believe it was the stewardess, the pilot and a man responsible for checking boarding passes.
“They asked me did I book a seat for the dog?
“I showed him the support dog paperwork.”
Staff accepted the documents but minutes before take-off returned to tell Sophia she could not fly.
The 32-year-old and her dog Hamilton were escorted off the plane and “left alone” in the airport.
“Obviously I was really upset, I was crying,” she said.
“But I said, ‘ok there’s a plane full of people so I will catch the next flight.’”
Ryanair said the pair from Miami, Florida, would not be able to fly with the airline and offered no way of getting them out, or a refund.
Sophia spent hours stranded in the airport arranging a ferry to Ibiza, and has lost more than €250 (US$300) in transport costs, including the flight ticket.
This was despite all checks being in place, before the flight.
“I have all of his paperwork, necessary for him to travel in the US,” Sophia said.
“I went to my vet and had him checked and chipped to be able to come into Spain.
“He had a physical 10 days before the trip.
“I then had to take the paperwork to the US Department of Agriculture for a stamp of approval.
“I have him to help with my anxiety when I fly.
“He [Hamilton] is very little and very calm,” Sophia said.
“I had the email from Ryanair confirming everything was set. I have a phobia of flying so I have Hamilton.
“I think it is a lot more common in the States and I knew I should check the situation over here so I had it all confirmed that it would be ok.
“Then I was kicked off the flight. There were ways it could have been handled and they were so rude.
“There was no solution, no explanation and no desire to help me.”
Sophia and Hamilton will now have to wait all day in Valencia before taking the ferry to Ibiza, but have no idea if they will be allowed to fly Ryanair back to Barcelona, before heading home to the US.
Ryanair is in the midst of a Europe-wide crisis as more than 2,000 flights have been cancelled due to staff shortages.
Former staff have come out to describe the company’s problems, which include overworking pilots.