Trade to play ‘vital part’ in helping blind people access travel

Blind people will soon be able to take guide dogs on board aircraft from most regional UK airports following the introduction of new EU regulations.

At the moment, blind or partially sighted people can only travel with their guide dogs on routes from Gatwick, Heathrow, Doncaster Sheffield, Glasgow and Manchester.

Following the introduction of the new EU regulations on July 26 –which legally require airports to cater for disabled people –a further 11 regional airports will have to cope with blind people and their guide dogs.

The regulations also mean agents are responsible for communicating the needs of the blind passenger to the airline.

Guide Dogs for the Blind transport policy officer Clive Wood said: “Many disabled people cannot use the internet and would rather speak to someone in person, so travel agents have a vital role to play in communicating their needs.“

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority added: “It is up to agents to speak to airlines and airportsto see if they are approved to accept guide dogs, then advise the customer.”

Guide Dogs for the Blind has been working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairsand the Scottish government since last year on a trial system with Glasgow airport, in which trainedstaff check in guidedogs for their flight.

It is hoped this system will be rolled out to regional airports including Luton, London City, Belfast and Cardiff by early next year.

Wood said: “Before this, a blind person living in Exeter would have to incur the expense and time of travelling to London for a flight. This will help blind people have the same travel options as everyone else.”

Accessible Travel and Leisure consultant Ian McFall welcomed the move, saying: “The more barriers broken down for disabled people, the better.”

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