This week we announced a long-term partnership with Virgin Atlantic 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, our partnership will offer Virgin Atlantic’s cabin crew bespoke training on how to support those flying with a vision impairment (VI).
Guide Dogs will provide each cabin crew member with online resources incorporated into their wider training programme, to help improve accessibility for those travelling with sight loss.
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.
Our 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. It will also focus on the best position on the aircraft for guide dogs to rest on their long journeys. Virgin Atlantic’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.
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.”
Guide Dogs and Queen Street Mill Textile Museum in Burnley have teamed up to help improve the visitor experience for visitors who have a vision impairment.
Produced jointly by Guide Dogs, Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), and Thomas Pocklington Trust, the VI Lives research study provides new insight into the experiences of people living with a vision impairment.
At Guide Dogs, we’re celebrating International Assistance Dog Week by sharing some special stories to show how we are globally connected, and the benefits of working with others all around the world.