Continental Sorta-Apologizes For Not Allowing Service Dog On Flight

Last month, Continental wouldn’t let Jessica bring her service dog on a flight because a ticket agent thought she was pulling one over on the airline. Now Continental has finally responded to Jessica’s complaint. She said the company is admitting partial fault in the dust-up, writing the agent’s “failure to provide you with the correct information would be considered a violation of federal disability law.”

Jessica says Continental offered her a couple of coupons to make good — one for 10 percent off of a flight and another for a free drink. She says she’ll need to give them to a friend because she’s given up on flying for the time being.

Previously: Continental Refuses To Believe Woman’s Service Dog Is Real

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  1. humphrmi says:

    So, “Whoops! Looks like we violated federal disability laws. Have a drink, on us!”

    • Difdi says:

      I wonder how the airline would react to this the other way around? “Oh whoops, I violated federal law and damaged your plane. Here, have an IOU for 10% of my fare and a snickers bar!”

    • common_sense84 says:

      Service dogs are pets. They are not covered under the ADA.

      The only dogs covered under the ADA are ones that replace a sense like eye sight or hearing.

      • AustinTXProgrammer says:

        I have read regulations and analysis of recen US DOJ rulings that day otherwise. Now unfortunately many people are going to abuse the designation to carry “emotional support dogs”

        There are lots of wheelchair bound people using service dogs to pick stuff up, open and close doors, pull them up hills, etc.

        You seem to have a grudge against the disabled. Why?

        • sniega says:

          People are not wheelchair bound. Unless they are actually tied to the chair, that is. They are wheelchair users, and even quads are not wheelchair bound.

      • whylime says:

        Wrong.

        “The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.

        Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself. Guide dogs are one type of service animal, used by some individuals who are blind. This is the type of service animal with which most people are familiar. But there are service animals that assist persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities. Some examples include:

        _ Alerting persons with hearing impairments to sounds.

        _ Pulling wheelchairs or carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments.

        _ Assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance.

        A service animal is not a pet.”

        http://www.ada.gov/qasrvc.htm

  2. Sheogorath says:

    STOP THE PRESSES!
    A COMPANY ACTUALLY ADMITTED THEY DID SOMETHING WRONG?
    Oh, dear. I’m a bit out of breath. This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, people!

    • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

      “She said the company is admitting partial fault in the dust-up…”

      I hardly take that as them admitting their error. More like, “We fucked up, but so did YOU so it isn’t completely our fault. Here, take this piddley token as our not-so-much apology, but more like a shut-the-hell-up olive branch.”

  3. BigBoat2 says:

    Oh Continental, we don’t need you to tell us you violated the law. That’s for a jury of your peers.

  4. eirrom says:

    “Jessica says Continental offered her a couple of coupons to make good — one for 10 percent off of a flight and another for a free drink.”

    I hope Contiential can afford to give away such “make good” gifts. Take about generous. They violate the law and offer her a free drink (value of +/- $10) and 10%!?!?! off on her next flight (based on $500 ticket, a whole $50, which might cover her bag fee). That seems to be about right. I could see how she would feel she was treated with respect with this offer.

    Problem solved. Put that one in the win column for Contiential and call it a day!

    • doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

      I would have to imagine the “free drink” costs them somewhere under $1.00. What they charge for it is another story.

      • gc3160thtuk says you got your humor in my sarcasm and you say you got your sarcasm in my humor says:

        I was thinking the same thing unless the free drink happens to be a cheap bottle of Vodka or something such as that. Or possibly to 12 packs of Coca Cola. Otherwise the mark-up on a can of Coke on a plane or a Vodka on the rocks is ridiculous.

  5. sirwired says:

    Well, I hope the OP complained to the FAA about this. A pattern of such complaints often means some hefty fine money.

  6. LACubsFan says:

    Ok her next step should be to print out that email, and open a case against the company.

    • Bye says:

      I think so too. They’ve admitted wrong-doing and now a proper penalty must be assessed.

    • sonneillon says:

      Unfortunately the ADA isn’t written that way. ADA only allows injunctive relief and legal fees. So she won’t get a dime from the lawsuit all she can do is force compliance.

      • Wombatish says:

        But at least then maybe the next person with a service dog could actually get on the plane :/

        And maybe the rep would actually be fired/punished in any way for breaking federal law.

        • sonneillon says:

          Fair enough and lawyers low on work will usually take these up because proving them is reasonably easy and it is almost a guaranteed pay out.

  7. Nighthawke says:

    Half-hearted efforts do not resolve broken federal laws.There is no partial fault in this matter, you broke the law or no. Continental owes Jessica more than just a couple of coupons and a limp apology.

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      Having read the first article I don’t believe Continental broke the letter of the law. Had she been at the airport with her service dog and they refused her boarding, that would have been a violation. She could have purchased the ticket without telling them about the dog.

      They still screwed up.

  8. Jasen says:

    The ADA’s a bitch. Don’t mess with disabled people, Continental.

  9. Pax says:

    (in)Continental Airlines fails yet again.

  10. Yentaleh says:

    I too, have a service dog, and I ran into this issue with NW Airlines. (I was flying home from La. after attending my grandmother’s funeral) They at first refused me access because my dog wasn’t your typical looking service dog. (He was a Boxer/Pitbull cross) I dug out my 3 law cards (ADA law cards with all the ADA information on them) and a my dogs Canadian identification card. (In Canada ID is required to fly in their country) they said it wasn’t enough and that I would need to show “certification” that he was a service dog. I looked them square in the eyes and said, “Do you think that anyone with a PET would carry this much ID? I finally had to call law enforcement and my uncle (who is a civil attorney and in Shreveport La.) to come help me sort this out. Law enforcement and my uncle both told NW Airlines that my dog was indeed a service dog and that I had every right to have him on the flight with me. But it didn’t stop there. Once we got our tickets and seating arrangements. I had to deal with TSA, they too hassled me about my dog and again I was on the phone with law enforcement and my uncle. Again, I had to show all the identification that I had for my dog and even though they are in a pseudo form of law enforcement I told them why I needed my dog. (Seizure alert) The TSA agent then proceeds to chastise me by saying, “If your dog is a seizure alert dog, why don’t you show us, what he does for you?” My husband was taken back by this and said “I can’t believe you are asking my wife to fall out of her wheelchair to show you what her seizure alert dog does for her.” By this time we were dangerously close to missing our flight and not making it home. I asked for a supervisor and we waited to the side until one could show up. The Supervisor that showed up was a friend of my family and knew of my disability and told the other TSA agents that I was cleared and that after hearing what had happened he said he would “deal with it.” (Btw he did deal with it.) Made our plane, flew to Memphis where I was treated much better and my dog was well received. I now take Amtrak or I drive when I’m travelling around the U.S. and if I have to fly I take Air Canada out of YVR (Vancouver B.C.)

    • Sheogorath says:

      Good on you. AMTRAK is the wave of the future, straight from the past.
      I mean, it’s sad that they cling to those old-fashioned concepts like ‘treating your customers as human beings’ and ‘customer service training’, but they pretty much have no baggage limits, so it makes up for the lack of dehumanization and cavity searches.

  11. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    We briefly considered training a service dog for my wife. She doesn’t have enough need to remotely consider the service dogs available in our area. I am guessing she would qualify, but wouldn’t get enough benefit for the $17,000 the local charity puts into each dog. One of the online schools will certify if you buy their classes, travel to their location for a week, and of course actually pass.

    Further research confirmed what the OP said, certification isn’t required! It seems like it’s time to self certify. Find a certificate from an organization, change it enough not to be a copyright offense, and clearly indicate your own name as the certifier! Most people will never notice and I expect this would be completely legit.

  12. Minneapolis says:

    Ooo, you nasty! With your service animal!

  13. MeowMaximus says:

    Sue. This is a clear ADA violation. Make a big stink about it, get some money, and insure that the airline remembers not to do this again.

  14. nakkypoo says:

    In California (unfortunately you’re in the wrong La and the wrong CA for this to apply) you can sue for ADA violations in civil court. It’s apparently a fairly cheap and straightforward process. The awarded damages are somewhere between $1,000 and $10,000. OP’s letter from Contenental seems like enough evidence to win in civil court. You may want to check if Louisiana has similar laws.

    • colorisnteverything says:

      The ADA is federal law.

      You can sue in US district court no matter where you are in the US because it is a federal law and a federal matter.

  15. Dr.Wang says:

    Just an FYI but people do have fake service animals. We see them in our ER, home made service animal signs dangling from their collars and more. Last one I saw growled when people came in the room. Frequently these are homeless or just plain crazy people.

    • humphrmi says:

      Um.

      I doubt that people are trying to sneak animals into an Emergency Room (if that’s what you mean by ER) for nefarious purposes. It’s not the same as an airplane – people who would fake a service animal on a plane are trying to avoid paying fees. Your “crazy” or homeless people probably have their pooch as their only companion. In most of their cases, getting treatment for an injury or illness means leaving their companion on the street or with a friend, and hoping it’s still there when they get back. In cases where an ER won’t accept their animals, it leaves them with a tough choice – get treatment and lose their only companion, or give up their animal to save their life.

      A little compassion goes a long way, Doctor.

      • Conformist138 says:

        Dr.Wang is a bit of a jerk. S/he also isn’t a Doctor, but did spent 8 years in school to become an RN (thus is too valuable of a person to clean up such mundane things as blood spills). So, I sort of doubt the good Doctor even works in a hospital.

  16. common_sense84 says:

    Service dogs are not covered under the ADA. Pets just don’t make it, not matter how you train them.

    Dogs are only covered under the ADA when they replace a sense lost.

    • whylime says:

      Wrong.

      “The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.

      Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself. Guide dogs are one type of service animal, used by some individuals who are blind. This is the type of service animal with which most people are familiar. But there are service animals that assist persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities. Some examples include:

      _ Alerting persons with hearing impairments to sounds.

      _ Pulling wheelchairs or carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments.

      _ Assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance.

      A service animal is not a pet.”

      http://www.ada.gov/qasrvc.htm

  17. balderdashed says:

    In addition to the ADA, many states have laws that provide comparable (or in some cases, arguably better) protection against disability discrimination by public accommodations. Airlines are frequently charged with discrimination under such laws. Depending on the state in which the discrimination occurred, there is a good chance there is a state law the airline violated, and a state agency with jurisdiction in the matter that will investigate a charge of discrimination at no cost to you. Since the airline has essentially admitted the violation and you have documentation to prove it, you should check state law and contact the agency that enforces it tomorrow morning — there is typically a statute of limitations that could be one year, but might be a lot less. You probably won’t end up with big bucks. But it will be better than a free drink, and the airline could be required to pay a substantial civil penalty. More importantly, a settlement and any resulting publicity will help make other passengers aware of their rights, and airlines aware of their responsibilities — perhaps sparing future airline passengers from treatment that is humiliating, inexcusable, and illegal.

  18. FrugalFreak says:

    SUE, Buy your own airplane with proceeds. They just admitted fault and breakage of the law.

  19. iFreePeely says:

    I think that what makes the whole “service animal” thing an issue is that people constantly abuse the privilege. Here in tofu-loving Oregon people use the “service animal” excuse to carry their stupid pets around Home Depot’s, Safeway’s, coffee shops and restaurants. These people can’t stand the thought to be without their stupid little lap dogs so they try and play it off like they have some imaginary condition that requires them to take little pookie with them no matter where they go.
    I have no problem with people who obviously need a true service animal such as blind folks. We all grew up respecting that. However, I can’t stand these hill-scoggin’s who prance around with their peeing chihuahuas and claim that they’re “service animals”. What maroons.
    They have no consideration for people who may be allergic to their pet. Let the lawsuits begin…

  20. mstevens says:

    I have dozens of patients with pets they’ve appointed as “service animals.” Not a single one of them is a service animal in any usual sense. Not one has any training at all. Each one is said to be a perfectly-behaved animal of which nobody could ever be afraid. The problem is that, somewhere on that plane or in that restaurant or in that medical waiting room is someone with a dog phobia or severe cat allergy. What about their rights?

    Real-life example: I once had a patient bring a TIGER to my office. She was very upset when I didn’t let her keep it in the building and claimed it was a service animal required for her anxiety. Well, tough. The same goes for several pit bulls and dobermans that have growled or lunged at small children in the waiting area. If I’m going to ban tigers and aggressive dogs, I’m going to ban parakeets and lemurs, too.

    If you have a sensory deficit such as blindness or deafness and an animal for which you can show training to help with that deficit, then fine. If not, then it’s your pet and you like having it with you because it makes you happier. That doesn’t make it a service animal. There is no federal law that says you get to have your “service tarantula” or “service electric eel” or “service llama” with you on a plane.

    Yes, I have a patient who claims her pet llama is a service animal. No, she cannot in any way describe what makes it a service animal other than she says so and likes to have it with her.

  21. crazydavythe1st says:

    A free drink and 10% isn’t much of a remedy. They’ve admitted guilt, the American thing to do would be to now sue.

  22. Rommel says:

    This just pains me to think of the unintelligent people ANY business hires nowadays. Aren’t service dogs supposed to be clearly designated by like a special collar or a little doggie vest?

  23. Puddy Tat says:

    A whole 10% and a drink really? I would tell them that instead of that why not explain this to my attorney!