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Service dog owner denied access to airport lounge

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. -- A Santa Clarita woman who is wheelchair-bound says she was kicked out of an airline lounge because of her service dog, CBS Los Angeles reports. 

Micaela Bensko captured the frustrating ordeal on video as the confrontation unfolded in the Virgin Atlantic lounge at JFK International Airport.

Micaela Bensko with her service dog.

CBS Los Angeles

In the clip, Bensko explains to an airline employee that she paid for the lounge so that she could lie down before her flight due to an injury that prevents her from sitting for more than 30 minutes. Her service dog, Blue Bell, helps pull her in the wheelchair. 

But the airline employee denied her access to the practically empty lounge, saying: "With Virgin Atlantic policy, with any service animal, you have to have some sort of paperwork." 

Bensko tearfully replied, "I'm in too much pain. I'm sorry I can't wait any longer. You guys are unbelievable." She proceeded to lie down on the concrete floor in the terminal while she waited more than 20 minutes for a manager to speak with her. 

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, those who are disabled do not need to provide documentation for their service dog. They are legally permitted to go anywhere the public is allowed to go.   

Micaela Bensko's service dog, Blue Bell.

CBS Los Angeles

The mother of four says she does not want compensation from the airline. She just wanted to be a spokesperson for all who are disabled. 

Virgin Atlantic released a written statement in response to the incident that reads in part: "As soon as we were made aware of this incident, we sent an urgent reminder to our Clubhouse teams to clarify the policy around support dogs, and will be investigating further to improve the way the situation was handled. It is never our intention to disappoint our customers, and we're keen to speak directly with the customer to understand what improvements we can make to ensure this doesn't happen again, and to offer our heartfelt apologies."

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