Blind and partially sighted people will soon be able to fly with their guide dogs from the majority of UK airports.
Currently recognised assistance dogs are only allowed at Gatwick, Heathrow, Glasgow, Manchester and Doncaster Sheffield airports. But after the introduction of the new rules, blind people and their guide dogs will be allowed to fly from 11 more airports around the country from March 2009.
More choice for the blind
This will reduce the cost burden and effort for many people with sight problems who currently have to travel long distances to an appropriate airport. It will also give blind and partially sighted people a better choice of airport when travelling abroad.
New EU rules
The move follows new EU regulations introduced in July 2007 requiring airports to legally cater for disabled people. But, due to the requirements of the Pet Travel Scheme, operated by the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), airport staff must first receive training before handling assistance dogs. Airports must then apply for approval from Defra before operating the scheme, both of which have delayed airports from allowing guide dogs.
Defra in staff training scheme
Currently Guide Dogs UK and Defra are training staff at UK regional airports, with Belfast International and Birmingham International the latest to have received approval for the scheme.
Despite more airports allowing assistance dogs, Clive Wood from Guide Dogs UK said some airlines are being very slow to take up their responsibility to disabled passengers: ‘They should be made aware that they need to be compliant with the regulations,’ he said.
In support of the move, Which? Holiday editor, Lorna Cowan, said: ‘We welcome the move to allow assistance dogs at more UK airports. But we would like to see more airlines follow suit and give blind and partially sighted people the same travel options as everyone else.’
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