Virgin Atlantic, in collaboration with Guide Dogs, has unveiled a long-term partnership dedicated to transforming the air travel experience for individuals with sight loss.
The partnership involves providing special training to Virgin Atlantic’s cabin crew to better assist passengers with visual impairments.
As part of the effort to enhance inclusivity, Guide Dogs will offer online resources to the airline’s cabin crew. The resources will be integrated into their regular training programme to make it easier for travellers with sight loss to navigate the flying experience.
The training provided by Guide Dogs will cover a range of topics, including how to approach and assist passengers with sight loss, especially in crowded spaces, for instance narrow aisles, stairs and doorways.
The programme will also educate the crew on the best spots on the aircraft for guide dogs to rest during long flights.
Virgin Atlantic employees will have opportunities for more comprehensive practical training, enabling them to confidently and empathetically guide travellers who have sight loss.
The partnership comes at a time when a recent survey of 250 individuals with sight loss in the UK has revealed that many of them wish to travel more but have reservations about flying due to past negative experiences.
Additionally, more than half the respondents reported discomfort during air travel, including nervousness during airport check-in, difficulty reading menus and stowing luggage.
In response to the challenges, the survey participants expressed a strong desire for airlines to improve their understanding of how to assist passengers with visual impairments.
Overall, the partnership between Virgin Atlantic and Guide Dogs aims to make air travel a more welcoming and accessible experience for passengers with sight loss, addressing their concerns and enhancing their travel opportunities.
Corneel Koster, the chief customer and operations officer of Virgin Atlantic, said: “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.
“Our partnership with Guide Dogs is one part of this journey and aims to broaden our understanding of those travelling with sight loss, ensuring that we make flying more accessible for everyone.
“We recognise there’s work to do but are looking forward to making a real impact together as our partnership evolves.”
John Welsman, the customer experience lead of Guide Dogs said the ultimate goal was to boost the confidence of blind and partially-sighted passengers, enabling them to travel with greater independence and assurance.
It’s important to note that all guide and assistance dogs possess the legal right to accompany passengers on flights.
Those planning to travel with their guide dogs via Virgin Atlantic should proactively reach out to the airline’s special assistance department before their journey.