HOUSTON (FOX 26) - The last few years have been really tough for Jessica Blackwell, and she says her emotional support dog Auryn has become a godsend.
“She’s really what pulls me through the flights. I concentrate on her,” Blackwell said.
Blackwell’s husband, Jeff, has a rare form of cancer, which has meant many flights from their home in LA to Houston’s M.D. Anderson hospital.
On March 29, Jeff became ill and flew from San Jose to Houston. Blackwell purchased a last minute first class ticket from LA to Houston for $800. She even paid an additional $129 for Auryn, which isn’t required since he’s an emotional support dog.
Blackwell says United has documented proof on file that Auryn is an emotional support animal and she says she had the required E.S.A. documentation on her. But she says that didn’t matter to airline employees, who she says treated her as if she was lying about Auryn’s E.S.A. status.
“She says, 'if you want to stay on this flight you have to go back to a coach seat.' I said fine,” Blackwell said. “The man next to me was so nice. He said, 'I’ll give up my seat if this will fix the problem' and she just gets irate, this is not going to fix the problem.”
Blackwell says because she couldn’t give the airline their required 48 hour notice before bringing an emotional support dog on board, she had to sit in the back of the plane with Auryn in her carrier under the seat.
“To do this to someone who truly needs an E.S.A. and has plenty of things in life to worry about, this is the last thing you want to worry about,” Blackwell said.
All United has offered her Blackwell says is a $159 refund, the difference in price from her first class seat to coach.
United Airlines sent this statement to FOX 26:
We understand the support emotional support animals provide our customers, however our policies require that documentation be received at least 48 hours prior to travel for verification purposes.
When the required notice cannot be provided we try our best to accommodate the customer and their pet.
We are currently in contact with the customer to resolve this matter.