Exeter and Flybe handle the first assistance dog flight from the airport.
The first dog to travel with a passenger on a commercial service from Exeter International Airport, UK, checked-in on November 16 for a Flybe flight to Alicante in Spain.
‘Vickie’, a Guild Dogs for the Blind trained Labrador, escorted her visually handicapped owner of just three months, Lin Chave, to the airport and onto the aircraft to become the first approved assistance dog in the south west of England to use the European Pet Travel scheme.
Linda, from Alphington in Exeter, said: “It’s an absolute lifeline for me to be able to travel with Vickie to and from our business in Spain. Vicky seems to have taken very well to the experience and without the help of Exeter Airport and Flybe I wouldn’t be able to do it.”
The airport’s procedures have recently been changed to meet the government’s requirements and the scheme’s guidelines, while Animal Health has given approval to four members of staff who completed their training on the Guide Dog Association’s Animal Clearance Officers course.
Exeter Animal Clearance Officer Marie Abbott used the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) approved scanner to check that the ‘chip’ in the dog’s neck matched the details in the Pet Passport whilst at check-in.
Commenting on the new scheme Jamie Christon, Exeter Airport’s Managing Director said: “We have a very good reputation with disability passengers and I’m sure that those with a visual handicap will appreciate being able to take their assistance dogs on flights from Exeter. Currently Flybe is the only approved airline offering the service but others may follow now that Exeter has the approval and the facilities in place.”
Mike Rutter, Flybe’s Chief Commercial Officer commented: “We’re naturally thrilled that, as the first UK low-cost carrier to have qualified under the scheme to carry assistance dogs on European flights, we can now offer this exclusive and essential service from Exeter to passengers who could not previously have travelled overseas with their lifeline animals.”
The airline is also approved to offer flights to passengers needing to travel with their assistance dogs on travel to and from mainland Europe from Birmingham and Southampton airports, both of which handled their first such flights earlier this year.
Flybe says the number of passengers requesting this service is increasing rapidly and bookings are already being processed for the year ahead. Passengers needing to use the assistance dog service must inform Flybe at the time of booking and need to provide a certificate from the organisation from which they received their dog as well as its Pet Passport.
The airline says it “understands the importance of providing support to assistance dog owners and, as such, has introduced its own pre-travel procedure as a courtesy to ensure that passengers have all the information they need prior to travel.”
It also gives travellers an opportunity to identify any possible areas that might prove to be of concern upon re-entering the country, because, for example, the owner’s quality of life and the assistance dog’s future working career would be severely impacted should it have to be quarantined for failing the Pet Travel Scheme checks upon re-entering the UK.
Flybe says the service has been especially welcomed by the Guide Dogs’ Association (GDA), which has commented on the fact that assistance dogs provide freedom and independence, especially to their blind and partially sighted owners. GDA spokesperson Janis Battersby comments: “Guide dogs and their owners are a partnership and it’s really important they are able to stay together. Flybe is helping make this possible, resulting in wider travel opportunities for those whose daily lives rely on an assistance dog.”
The Pet Travel Scheme has proved particularly popular for passengers using Southampton International Airport from where Flybe operates some 180 European flights a week. Dave Lees, Operations Director at Southampton Airport, says that “this crucial service enables passengers to travel across Europe using their local airport and provides an easy, fast and friendly experience for the passenger and their dog.”
The Pet Travel Scheme:
DEFRA definition: ‘The Pet Travel Scheme allows pet dogs, cats and ferrets from certain countries to enter the UK without quarantine as long as they meet the rules.
Upon arrival at the destination airport, an Animal Clearance Officer will meet the aircraft in order to carry out the required checks. These involve ensuring that:
- The dog’s microchip corresponds with the number registered in its Pet Passport
- The microchip was implanted prior to being administered with the rabies vaccination
- That a blood test has given a satisfactory result showing the rabies vaccination is effective
- The dog is not entering the UK within six months of the above blood test
- A veterinarian has administered tick and tapeworm treatments 24-48 prior to entry into the UK
- The Pet Passport has been completed correctly.
Should the assistance dog fail the Pet Travel Scheme checks, it will immediately be taken to an animal holding facility where every effort will be made to resolve the problem before contacting the quarantine kennels.