A Southwest Airlines passenger who said she had a life-threatening pet allergy was physically removed from a Los Angeles-bound plane prior to taking off in Baltimore Tuesday, and the incident was captured by fellow passengers on video.
Passengers were already aboard Southwest Flight 1525 when the pilot and several Baltimore transportation officers went to the back of the plane to speak with a woman who was having a problem, said Bill Dumas, who recorded video.
There were two dogs on the plane and the woman had asked that they be removed because she had a deadly allergy, Dumas said.
Southwest Airlines said in a statement that one of the dogs was an “emotional support” animal and the other was a pet.
When the passenger was informed that Southwest could not remove the paying passengers or dogs due to airline's policy, Dumas said the woman indicated she wanted to stay on the flight. But crew members were concerned they would need to divert the flight if she had a reaction.
Southwest's statement described the airline's policy and what happened:
Our policy states that a Customer (without a medical certificate) may be denied boarding if they report a life-threatening allergic reaction and cannot travel safely with an animal onboard. Our Flight Crew made repeated attempts to explain the situation to the Customer, however, she refused to deplane and law enforcement became involved.
The woman was asked to leave the plane but refused, Dumas said.
“Everything was very quiet up until a decision was made that this woman would have to be physically removed from the plane,” Dumas said. “She just put up a lot of resistance and was adamant about not being taken off the plane.”
In the video, the woman says her father has to have surgery, apparently in an explanation of why she needed to stay on the plane. She and the officer struggled, with the woman repeatedly saying "don't touch me" and that she would walk off the aircraft on her own.
An officer, one of three who can be seen in the video, shouts "walk" at her multiple times.
"I am a professor. What are you doing?" she says to the officer.
Southwest apologized to the woman, who has not been identified.
“We are disheartened by the way this situation unfolded and the Customer’s removal by local law enforcement officers. We publicly offer our apologies to this Customer for her experience and we will be contacting her directly to address her concerns. Southwest Airlines was built on Customer Service, and it is always our goal for all Customers to have a positive experience,” the airline's statement read.
Dumas said other passengers remained calm during the ordeal and he felt the Southwest crew handled the situation correctly.
“It was a no-win situation, for sure,” Dumas said.
KTLA's Sarah Fenton contributed to this report.