Virgin Atlantic and charity Guide Dogs have announced a long-term partnership which aims to create a more inclusive air travel experience for those with sight loss. With 250 people in the UK starting to lose their sight every day*, the initiative will offer the airline’s cabin crew bespoke training on how to support those flying with a visual impairment (VI).
As the airline continues to champion the development of inclusive policies for its people and customers, Guide Dogs will provide each cabin crew member with online resources incorporated into their wider training programme, in a bid to improve accessibility for those travelling with sight loss.
Guide Dogs’ training aims to support customers by teaching Virgin Atlantic crew best practices when helping those with visual impairments and covers topics from how to approach someone with sight loss, to navigating narrow or busy spaces, stairs, steps, and doorways, to taking a seat. They’ll also focus on the best position on the aircraft for guide dogs to rest on their long journeys. The airline’s people will also have opportunities to participate in more in-depth practical training where they will learn to safely guide someone with sight loss with confidence, skill, and empathy.
The collaboration launches as new research of 250 Brits with sight loss revealed that three-fifths (59%) would like to travel abroad more, however, almost seven in ten (68%) are reluctant to travel by plane because of previous negative experiences.
Despite this, over half (56%) have felt uncomfortable travelling by plane at some point in the past. Reasons included feeling nervous checking in at the airport (38%), reading the food menu (34%) and putting away their luggage (32%).
In response, to being asked what would improve the travel experience, 65% said that they’d like to see airlines undertake training to understand how they can better support passengers with visual impairments, as the majority (84%) said they’d feel more comfortable with air travel if cabin crew were better educated. Additionally, 59% said they’d like to see airlines consult those with sight loss to improve their policies.
Corneel Koster, Chief Customer and Operations Officer, 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, Customer Experience Lead, Guide Dogs said:
“We’re delighted to be working with Virgin Atlantic and hope our long-term partnership will put in place improvements that will tangibly impact the lives of those with sight loss for the better. By providing advice to cabin crew and having them undertake sighted guide training, we hope blind and partially-sighted passengers will have the confidence to travel as fully and independently as possible.”
Whilst all guide and assistance dogs have a legal right to fly, passengers who wish to travel with their guide dog should contact Virgin Atlantic’s special assistance department before flying to ensure full support is put in place and any questions can be answered.
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Notes to Editor:
* Deloitte Access Economics (2017). Incidence and risk of sight loss and blindness in the UK. RNIB
Research conducted by One Poll between 8th – 15th February 2023 dates of 250 UK adults who experience visual impairment.
About Guide Dogs
Guide Dogs is here to help the two million people living with sight loss live the life they choose. Children and adults. Friends and family. Our expert staff, volunteers and life-changing dogs are here to help people affected by sight loss live actively, independently, and well. Founded in 1934, following our first partnerships in 1931, we are a charity that is almost entirely dependent on donations. Find out more at www.guidedogs.org.uk
About Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic was founded by entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson in 1984, with innovation and amazing customer service at its core. In 2022, Virgin Atlantic was voted Britain’s only Global Five Star Airline by APEX for the sixth year running in the Official Airline Ratings. Headquartered in London, it employs over 7,500 people worldwide, flying customers to 27 destinations across four continents. It will launch routes to Turks and Caicos and the Maldives later this year.
Alongside shareholder and Joint Venture partner Delta Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic operates a leading transatlantic network, with onward connections to over 200 cities around the world. On 3 February 2020, Air France-KLM, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic launched an expanded Joint Venture, offering a comprehensive route network, convenient flight schedules, competitive fares and reciprocal frequent flyer benefits, including the ability to earn and redeem miles across all carriers. Virgin Atlantic is also set to join the global airline alliance SkyTeam in 2023. Virgin Atlantic will become SkyTeam’s first and only UK member airline, enhancing the alliance’s transatlantic network and services to and from Heathrow and Manchester Airport.
Sustainability remains central to the airline, which is committed to achieving net zero by 2050. To meet this goal, Virgin Atlantic welcomed the first of 16 A330-900neos in October 2022. The A330-900neos are equipped with the most fuel-efficient engines and designed to be 11% more fuel and carbon efficient than the A330-300s that they replace and deliver a 50% reduction in airport noise contour. These investments reaffirm the airline’s dedication to flying one of the youngest and most fuel-efficient fleets in the skies, resulting in the reduction of carbon emissions by 20%, increasing to 30% in 2027.
For more information visit www.virginatlantic.com or via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @virginatlantic.