Here’s some good news.
Seattle-based Alaska Airlines announced last month that it worked with Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) to update the airline’s Accessible Travel Services policy to allow service animals in training to travel domestically at no cost.
“GDB is honored to partner with Alaska Airlines and we are thrilled that our guide dog puppies in training will now have the ability to practice traveling both in the airport and in cabin. This type of exposure helps to prepare them for the highest level of service dog work — becoming a guide dog for someone who is blind or visually impaired,” said Christine Benninger, Guide Dogs for the Blind president and CEO. “We very much appreciate Alaska Airlines’ ongoing efforts to improve independent travel and customer service for all travelers, especially those with disabilities.”
Listed are some of the requirements:
- Travel is wholly within the United States.
- The service animal is being transported by their trainer/raiser.
- The trainer/raiser can provide a health certificate for the service dog/puppy in training on official letterhead from the assistance organization.
- The trainer/raiser can provide an official Trainer ID card issued by the assistance organization.
- Space must be available and confirmed in advance for traveling in the cabin or cargo compartment. (Limited and subject to availability).
Alaska Airlines already flies service animals in training free of charge that are being delivered to their new owner/handler’s home.
I did a quick check of the major carriers in the US and virtually none of them allow service dogs in training to fly for free. They don’t even allow these dogs in the cabin. United Airlines does allow service dogs in training to fly in the cabin for free, but only if it is training to assist disabled passengers onboard.
“Making travel easier for our customers is a mantra at Alaska Airlines,” said Len Wolford, Alaska Airlines passenger service policy and procedure specialist. “When Guide Dogs for the Blind asked us to adopt a policy that would welcome ‘dogs in training’ on our planes, we responded quickly and waived our standard fee to allow service dogs-in-training to travel free of charge.”
Thanks to Alaska Airlines for enacting this new policy.
Allowing service dogs in training to fly for free will encourage more trainers to bring them on planes, which in turn will give the dogs some flying experience before they take their person on a plane for the first time.
Last month Alaska Airlines also worked with GDB, Vision Loss Connections, and Washington State Department of Services for Blind, partnered last week to bring a little more ease and familiarity into that experience.
They invited a group of people, service dogs, and dog trainers to board a Boeing 737 aircraft at the Alaska Airlines hangar in Sea-Tac for a mock flight demonstration, where they were given verbal information about the flying process and allowed to touch portions of the aircraft.
Event volunteers including captain Brian Horton and flight attendants Shirley Purkey, Patrick Inouye, Carole Scallon, and Desiree Endert. Participants were led through a flight simulation that included boarding and deplaning, a safety briefing, inflight announcements, and snacks. P
They were also invited to tour the plane, which for the visually impaired meant touching the landing gear and visiting the flight deck, lavatories and galley. They took participants through the seat layout, showed them the call button and knobs above the seat, and let them tour the lavatory to help prepare them for a “real life” flying experience.