Close up shot of Micaela Bensko and her service dog, Blue BelleMicaela Bensko and Blue Belle

Service Dog Denied at Virgin Atlantic Lounge

Here it is. Just landed at home.

Blue and I were denied entry to the JFK Virgin Atlantic Lounge.

All of us have experienced it. An airline employee more robotic than human. We have all seen the videos of late. A man dragged down the aisle, a mother and her child sideswiped by a stroller. These have us all up in arms. We think we have seen it all and then there’s more.

My service dog Blue Belle and I were denied entry to the JFK Virgin Atlantic lounge due to their ‘policy’ and the ‘possible discomfort of others.’ This lounge is not a luxury for me, flying in a lay-flat seat is not a luxury but a financial burden and a necessity. My condition is Arachnoiditis and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome of the spine. I am also in a wheelchair so every step of a travel plan must be carefully laid out with crossed t’s and dotted i’s. I read every policy, I compare it with ADA laws and regulations. I call customer service and speak to human beings to make and confirm our (mine and Blue Belle’s) travel arrangements. Blue Belle wears her vest clearly marked with 6″x 2″ panels that say SERVICE DOG. I carry her vaccination papers with me at all times as well as pay the extra $75 to be in the airline’s lounge for even one hour because sitting for any extended period of time (which can mean 20 minutes if I am in a flare) can send me to the hospital with spinal contractions with levels on the McGill Pain Scale above childbirth or phantom limb. If I am not already in a flair, this can send me into one. Stress can also be a contributing factor to this. I am not telling you these things for a pity party, it is simply the reality of millions of forgotten or dismissed individuals others shy away from because it takes too much energy to see.

I am not jumping on a bandwagon. I have simply experienced these excruciating episodes while traveling one too many times. You might call it death by a thousand cuts. This is my story from last night – one I am physically unable to hold within and hope it can somehow spark a change in how airlines and corporations train (or in this case, don’t train) their employees as to the federal laws mandated specifically to protect the disabled.

I am hoping that with your assistance my experience might open this much needed conversation between the airlines and the ADA community, primarily proper training of employees as to the federal laws demanding equal treatment of the disabled and their service animals.

Video of Incident:

Mrs. Micaela Bensko, CA