Preparing to fly with an Assistance Dog
Preparing to fly with an assistance dog or guide dog, what does it involve and what should you be aware of?
Holidaying for the disabled traveller is getting a lot easier these days, with more and more travel organisations accommodating tourists who have special needs. Whether it be locating a wheelchair accessible hotel or finding an organised tour that provides assistance for the hearing impaired, booking holidays for disabled travellers is becoming more mainstream, which is wonderful news for those with disabilities who wish to explore more of the world.
For the visually impaired requiring an assistance dog, extra care and attention must go into the planning process to ensure both guide dog and owner are accommodated sufficiently. Here are some tips for flying with a guide dog, including the rules to expect and the preparations that can be made ahead of time to ensure a smooth journey.
Know the Rules
Each airline has its own rules regarding the carrying of assistance dogs when facilitating holidays for disabled passengers and it is the responsibility of the traveller to know what they are for the particular carrier chosen. Most information can be found on an airline’s website.
Most carriers will allow an assistance dog to fly free of charge in the cabin with the owner, provided the dog has been certified by an organisation that is a full member of Assistance Dogs International (ADI) or International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF), the accrediting bodies for assistance dog organisations worldwide. Additionally, if the UK is a destination during any leg of the trip, the canine must meet the requirements of DEFRA’s Pet Travel Scheme to avoid the possibility of it being quarantined upon arrival.
Preparing for the flight
Most airlines are very helpful in ensuring fly-holidays for disabled travellers are comfortable and as easy as possible. When accommodating guide dogs, some carriers require the animal to lay across the owner’s feet in front them and behind the bulkhead, while others designate a spot in front of the seat beside the owner. Most insist the animal wear a safety harness for security reasons during take-off and landing, and lay upon a blanket with an absorbent pad underneath for the duration of the flight.
Passengers are not permitted to carry water past security, but it can often be purchased once security is cleared, or on the flight itself for the comfort of the dog. Bringing a suitable container for the water to be poured into can keep spills at bay during any turbulence while flying.
Calling the airlines
In the days leading up to the trip, a call should be made to the airline to ensure all preparations have been made to accommodate the traveller and guide dog, and to ask any last minute questions. Even if the traveller has booked the flight through a third-party travel consultant experienced in arranging holidays for disabled people, it’s not a bad idea for the passenger to give the airline a call directly as well. It would be a shame for the traveller to show up for a flight only to realise the airline was neither aware nor prepared.
With a little bit of advanced planning and attention to detail those with visual impairments and other physical disabilities can easily enjoy a fun and relaxing holiday away.
About the author
Philip Scott is the owner and founder of Can be Done, a fully licensed UK tour operator specialising in worldwide holidays for disabled individuals and groups. With over 31 years’ experience organising long and short breaks for disabled travellers, Philip has built a reputation for helping his clients select hotels and accommodation that offer high standards of accessibility, to ensure that those with special needs can experience truly relaxing and carefree holidays.