How Virgin Atlantic Is Creating a More Inclusive Travel Experience for Visually Impaired Passengers

The airline is training its cabin crew to create a more inclusive travel experience.

Guide dog-in-training Taffy sits below her trainer, Kelly Bergee, in a mock airplane during an event hosted by Guide Dogs for the Blind and Alaska Airlines

Genna Martin/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Virgin Atlantic is training its cabin crew to better accommodate passengers with seeing eye dogs.

The new training, which is in partnership with the charity Guide Dogs, will help foster a “more inclusive air travel experience for those with sight loss,” according to the airline. The training will include both online resources and the opportunity for in-depth practical training.

“At Virgin Atlantic, we believe that everyone can take on the world and that means ensuring every one of our customers has the best possible experience when they fly with us,” Corneel Koster, the chief customer and operations officer at Virgin Atlantic, said in a statement obtained by Travel + Leisure. “Our partnership with Guide Dogs is one part of this journey and aims to broaden our understanding of those traveling with sight loss, ensuring that we make flying more accessible for everyone. We recognize there’s work to do but are looking forward to making a real impact together as our partnership evolves.”

The training will focus on how best to approach passengers with sight loss, how to help them navigate narrow spaces and stairs, and how to assist them to take a seat. The training will also address the best place for guide dogs to rest on long trips.

John Welsman, the customer experience lead at Guide Dogs, said the new partnership will “tangibly impact the lives of those with sight loss for the better,” adding the group hopes going forward “blind and partially-sighted passengers will have the confidence to travel as fully and independently as possible.”

Seeing eye dogs are defined as a type of service animal in the United States, according to the Americans with Disabilities National Network. The Department of Transportation defines service animals as "a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability." These animals are welcome to travel in the cabin with passengers but must fit by a passenger's feet and must be harnessed or leashed at all times.

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