MCALLEN, TX (WLOX - Davis Hawn, of Pass Christian, was on his way from New Orleans to Mexico City when he hit a snag in a McAllen, TX, airport. Hawn claims he and his service dog, Savior, were stranded in the airport after he was turned away from a flight because Savior was not in a dog box.
KRGV, an ABC affiliate covering the Rio Grande Valley, covered the story Thursday.
Hawn said he made a pit stop in McAllen to visit a friend and war veteran who is suffering from stage four breast cancer. That's when his trip hit a road block.
"If you're blind, the dog is your eyes by proxy. If you're deaf, the hearing dog is your ears. If you're a war veteran with psychiatric issues, the dog is your mental well-being. You never separate the dog from the person because the dog is, by proxy, part of your body," Hawn told KRGV.
Hawn said Savior is not only his service dog and best friend. He's also his most valuable piece of medical equipment.
Hawn said he has boarded more than 80 flights with Savior without a problem. That is, until he tried to board Aeromar Flight 799.
"When I went to get on the plane, they looked at me very funny," Hawn said.
He said the desk personnel asked him if he had a box for Savior.
"I said, 'I never travel with a box for my service dog.' Then they said, 'Our plane is too small to fly a service dog.'"
Hawn said he and Savior were never allowed to board the plane, even after Aeromar's home office in Mexico City got involved.
"Apparently, the corporate philosophy was they weren't going to fly a service dog," said Hawn. "I don't blame the counter help. They weren't trained properly, but when they made the phone call to Mexico to the corporate office and they say, 'Yeah, don't let the guy on the plane.' Uh-uh."
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, service animals must be allowed to travel in all airplane cabins. Hawn says that's because service dogs can't help their handlers when they're locked away in a kennel.
"My dog was not going to be in a cargo box in 100 degree heat flying on a little plane going into Mexico today. Number one, it's not a requirement. It's against the law, but number two, I'm not going to risk the life of my best friend."
After Hawn's story made it to the news, he says United Airlines stepped up to make sure he and Savior were comfortable. He said the company paid for his room in McAllen, a rental car and the room he lost in Mexico because of the no-show.
He said KRGV's story made all the difference, and he sent a heartfelt email to the reporter who covered his story just before takeoff. That reporter was Steve Soliz.
Here is Hawn's letter in its entirety:
You made another difference in the world. Savior and I are on a United flight. Savior walked on and assumed his bulkhead position without a command! The stewards and stewardesses were amazed.
United's executive office called me shortly after the interview. They're paying for my rental car, room in McAllen and lost room in Mexico due to no-show.
I applauded them...its Aeromar after all. You helped a Bergin student utilize an education while helping the disabled. I know not how to express my gratitude. Perhaps I can train a Service Dog for a family member of yours...or God forbid YOU...life changes quickly sometimes. Nobody thinks they will ever not be able to walk or see or deal with life on life's terms. It happens every day and it's rough...also for the family members.
I'm glad it happened to me and not another innocent soul less prepared to cope with the additional stress.
Years of therapy aided me in this endeavor. It's unfortunate BUT again, you and your station made a difference! It is heartfelt.
With love of heart,
Savior and his human, Davis Hawn.
We are a Team.
WLOX spoke with Hawn on Friday afternoon just before he boarded a flight for Mexico City. He expects to be there by 5 p.m.
Hawn hopes his story will help raise awareness about how other people with disabilities should be treated.
"I'm just a man, 57 years of age, who relies on a dog instead of many prescription drugs, and this is my medical dog. And, you know, I think that airlines have a duty to try to be compassionate. Most of them are, and this airline could have handled it differently and they chose not to," said Hawn
You can find a link to the original KRGV story here: http://shout.lt/8QXJ