An American Airlines flight attendant required five stitches to his hand after being bitten by an “emotional support” dog a spokesperson for the airline confirmed last night. The incident, which took place on an American Eagle flight between Dallas Fort Worth and Piedmont Triad Airport in Greensboro, North Carolina on Monday, has been described as “unacceptable and inexcusable” by the union who represents the flight attendant.
“What happened on yesterday’s (Monday’s) American Airlines flight is completely unacceptable and inexcusable,” a spokesperson for the Association of Flight Attendants said. The union represents flight attendants at Envoy Air which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of American Airlines operating regional flights under the American Eagle brand.
The incident occurred on an Embraer 175 regional jet.
“We need the Department of Transportation to take action now, so events like the one that happened yesterday do not continue to occur on our planes,” the spokesperson implored.
“This is fundamentally about maintaining safety, health and security for passengers and crew while ensuring accessibility for those who need it,” the spokesperson explained. The union insists that it supports the role that properly trained animals can offer passengers.
Emptional Support Animals have been a controversial subject for some time and critics believe the system is open to rampant abuse from passengers without any need to actually have an ESA. A survey conducted by the Association of Flight Attendants last year found that over 60% of flight attendants had witnessed an emotional support animal cause a disturbance in the cabin.
Worryingly, over half of those incidents involved aggressive or threatening behaviour by the animal.
Many airlines, including American Airlines, have clamped down on emotional support animals in the last 18-months. In March, American introduced the second big change to its service animal policy in less than a year. The airline now only considers dogs and cats as emotional support animals while the scope for ‘service animals’ also include miniature horses in some limited circumstances.
Passengers wishing to travel with an emotional support animals must provide documentary proof of their need but critics say it is easy to obtain almost instant certification from online providers.
A spokesperson for American Airlines declined to disclose the breed of dog involved in the incident.
The Department of Transport is currently investigating the issue of service and emotional support animals but so far no formal action has been taken.