Veteran told service dog not allowed on flight

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Nashville, TN (WSMV) — A veteran and her service dog had no trouble flying to Nashville for Thanksgiving, but on her return trip, she was told her service dog wasn’t allowed on board.

Christa Icobelli needs 2-year-old Lexi to cope with her post-traumatic stress disorder.

Lexi plays and jumps just like any German shepherd puppy, but Icobelli said she’s anything but average.

“She’s practically saved my life,” Icobelli said.

Icobelli served in the Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton. She was medically retired after suffering from PTSD. She found Lexi through the Wounded Warrior Project.

“She wakes me up from nightmares. She also snaps me out of flashbacks and panic attacks,” Icobelli said. “She’s trained to alert me when to take medication too.”

Icobelli, her two young children and Lexi flew to Nashville for Thanksgiving without issue.

“No questions, nothing,” she said. “They even changed our seats to make it more comfortable for us.”

But when the family tried to fly back to San Diego, they were told Lexi was not allowed aboard the plane.

“I had a complete panic attack to where I couldn’t breathe, and she actually pulled me outside through the sliding glass doors to get air,” Icobelli said. “She nudged my leg to sit down so I could regroup and get myself together.”

Icobelli said she had faxed in all of the appropriate paperwork. She said a clerk told her Lexi could ride in cargo for an extra $125. The family left and contacted customer service.

“They wouldn’t give me a refund or anything like that, and I haven’t heard back,” Icobelli said.

A spokesperson for American Airlines told Channel 4 they never received Icobelli’s paperwork, but for an extra $125, they were going to allow Lexi to ride in the cabin.

That same spokesperson told Channel 4 she would check with customer relations to see if the airline planned to issue a refund.

In the meantime, Icobelli and her family made other travel arrangements. They fly out of Nashville Thursday morning on Southwest Airlines.

“It stinks because if someone was in a wheelchair, they wouldn’t question anything, but because they can’t see my disability, they discriminated,” Icobelli said.

American Airlines policy states that it is free to fly with a service dog. The airline only requires verbal confirmation that it is a service dog.

However, American Airlines also has an emotional support service animal policy that requires owners to submit paperwork.

Icobelli reiterated that she submitted all the necessary paperwork and had no problem flying to Nashville.

By Carley Gordon

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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