Flying with a guide dog
Of the approximately 7,000 assistance dog owners in the UK, it is understood that relatively few actually travel abroad with their dogs.
John Welsman, transport policy expert at the charity Guide Dogs, who has experience flying with his own guide dog, Breck, comments on why the numbers may be so low: “The main issue I hear from guide dog owners is a lack of knowledge about how airports will handle the dog, and the uncertainty around airline and assistance dog immigration policies, which can deter people from travelling by air. In fact, fellow passengers and airport staff in the UK see very few assistance dogs relative to other types of support required by other passengers, such as wheelchair users”
The video follows guide dog owner John and Breck through a number of scenarios at the airport and once onboard a plane. John added: “We want to show passengers what it is really like for a individual with sight loss and their guide dog to navigate through an aiport, showing what the considerations are, and to provide useful tips and guidance for fellow passengers to support us when we are travelling. We hope this video will also help to improve the experience of people travelling with an assistance dog, and will encourage more visually impaired people to take a trip of a lifetime with their guide or other assistance dog in the future.”
“Although Cathay Pacific does fly passengers and their guide dogs regularly between London and Hong Kong, in reality it is quite rare to see a guide dog in an airport environment,” James Ginns, Cathay Pacific Regional General Manager Europe, commented. “That said, we believe it’s important fellow passengers have a better understanding of individuals travelling with a sight loss or visual impairment and hope a few handy tips will be very useful. As it is Guide Dog Week and with 2018 being the Chinese Year of the Dog, we felt this is a great year to work with Guide Dogs to raise awareness about accessible air travel.”
Guide Dogs’ tips for fellow passengers
- Introduce yourself before offering assistance to a guide dog owner. Verbally explain how and what you are doing to help.
- When a guide dog is wearing its harness, do not distract it by stroking or offering food.
- If the guide dog is not wearing its harness, always ask the owner before giving it a stroke.
- Allow space around the owner and the guide dog for navigation.
- Whilst a guide dog owner is likely to be assisted by airline staff, know that it’ll take them slightly longer to go from check-in to boarding.
Guide Dogs’ tips for owners
- All guide dogs should have a pet passport before they travel, and should be vaccinated in accordance with the regulations in the transit or final destination. A proof of training certificate will be required.
- It is advisable to tell the airline at the time of booking that you have an assistance dog, and contact them again at least two days before the flight.
- Guide dogs and other assistance dogs are allowed in the cabin with their owner. However, a special permit may be required by relevant authorities for in-cabin dog travel.
- Guide dog owners and their dogs will usually be asked to board first, and be seated in the bulk head area (but not an exit row), so that the dog can stretch out.
- Cabin crew are trained and on hand to help with anything visual such as in-flight menus, locations of different amenities, and so on.
- It is advisable to limit food and liquid intake for the dog 3 hours before the flight.
- Guide Dogs will be able to provide any advice required before the flight, click here.
Details for travelling with a guide dog onboard Cathay Pacific flights
1. Proof of dog training
Documents issued by an organisation affliated to the International Guide Dog Federation, Assistance Dog International and Assistance Dogs Europe are accepted.
2. Pet passport or special permits
Export, import permits from all relevant departure, arrival and transit points will be required by local immigration officiers. For passengers flying with Cathay Pacific, the Hong Kong Agriculture Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) exempts all guide dogs from quarantine, however, approval must be obtained in advance from the AFCD before travelling with a guide dog in-cabin.
For Cathay Pacific passengers, a guide dog will need a combined Animal Health and Vaccination Certificate as well as proof of rabies neutralisation. For more information, visit www.afcd.gov.hk and our online guidance for assistance dog owners.