Belfast Telegraph

easyJet refuses to let blind woman on board with guide dog

For 12 years, Joanna Jones has flown with easyJet alongside her guide dog Orla without incident.

But she was left disappointed and angry after the airline refused to allow her to take her canine helper aboard on Sunday.

The Lisburn woman tweeted her upset when easyJet refused to let them board at Gatwick.

The pair eventually flew home to Belfast on Monday after easyJet was contacted by the Guide Dogs Association in Belfast.

Joanna’s outbound journey was hassle-free with a different airline and her Poodle-Labrador cross in tow.

She said: “EasyJet were looking for an official document and I was never given one. They didn’t ask for that when I booked.”

She added: “I was frustrated and angry, which is why I sent a tweet telling everyone online what was happening to me. My mum was with me, luckily. I would have been stranded without her.

“I’m also overwhelmed by the thousands of messages I’ve received on Twitter.”

Joanna said easyJet is yet to apologise to her for the distress caused by the incident, and urged the airline to adopt a different approach to visually impaired customers in future.

She called for the issue of documentation to be reviewed.

“I always have to get someone else to help me with easyJet flights. I’ve been told easyJet has issued an apology but nobody has spoken to me directly.

“I believe Guide Dogs in Northern Ireland need to act on this too. Some form of ID card for me and my dog would be appropriate.”

Joanna is thankful to be back home with Orla and fiance Barry Toner, who said he experienced a similar problem last year.

Joanna added: “I told them I was travelling with a guide dog and they didn’t mention this paperwork then. She was wearing her tag and harness. That should have been good enough. It was obvious I am a blind person and my dog is a guide dog.”

EasyJet’s Andrew McConnell said the airline welcomes hundreds of passengers travelling with dogs each year.

“In line with Civil Aviation Authority guidelines, easyJet’s regulations make clear that documentation must be carried showing that they are a trained guide dog,” he said.

“Guide dogs receive intensive training from accredited organisations, eg Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, to ensure that they can cope with the conditions onboard an aircraft.

“This is to protect the safety and security of the passenger, their guide dog and all other passengers. In this case, unfortunately Miss Jones did not have this documentation with her and by the time it was faxed through she missed her flight.

“EasyJet staff offered every assistance to Miss Jones and transferred her free of charge onto the first available easyJet flight.”

Guide Dogs' transport policy officer, John Welsman, said he understood she was upset, but that rules are rules.

He said: “Those rules are in place to protect passenger safety, and we would remind all our guide dog owners to carry their ID cards with them at all times.”

Background

EasyJet’s policy is that disabled people can take ‘service dogs’ — which includes guide dogs — on board all their UK domestic flights. Emotional support dogs are not considered as assistance dogs under Regulation EC1107 or UK DfT Guidance, and therefore are not accepted.

The airline said service and helping dogs will only be permitted to travel if the passenger is in possession of an official document provided by a recognised assistance dog training organisation confirming that the dog is a fully trained service dog or is under the control of a trainer. The dog must also wear an identifying jacket or harness.

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