Marilyn Borchiver, a Toronto woman with the musculoskeletal pain-causing disorder fibromyalgia, told the Canadian network that she was asked to leave while trying to board a flight from Toronto to Palm Springs on New Year’s Day. She claimed that some passengers had complained of allergies to her Shetland sheepdog Scooter.
“There were at least three comments about being allergic to dogs,” she said, while noting that she had gotten into a dispute with one fellow passenger at the gate and another after passing through the checkpoint.
Borchiver said she had spoken to Air Canada staff responsible for passengers with medical needs and presented immunizations records and a letter from a psychotherapist to make her case. Still, the staff purportedly asked her to leave and called police when she refused.
“I was treated like a disgusting human being,” she said.
A spokesman for the airline confirmed that a “disruptive customer” had been removed from the flight but countered Borchiver’s version of the incident.
“The decision was not related to the presence of an emotional support animal,” the spokesperson told Global News, without providing additional details. “The matter was handled according to our regular processes.”
Another spokesperson for Peel Region Police said law enforcement removed Borchiver at the airline staff’s request but added that the matter was a customer service issue.
Gábor Lukács, the founder of advocacy group Air Passenger Rights, told Global News that service animal regulations in Canada are murky when dealing with a passenger who says she needs her support dog and other passengers who say they have allergies. Still, he said that he believed that Borchiver was treated unfairly, adding that Air Canada should have accommodated both parties by providing alternative flights.
“The airline was acting in a completely capricious way without documentation of the person’s allergy and without giving priority to the passenger who had complied with all the legal requirements for the accommodation of the disability, and this passenger gave sufficient notice,” he said.
Borchiver said she is now mulling over legal action and filing a complaint with authorities.
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