The first dog to travel with a passenger on a commercial service from Exeter International Airport checked-in this morning (16 November 2009) for the 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 to use the Pet Travel scheme.
Linda Chave, 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 Exeter Airport and Flybe’s help; I wouldn’t be able to do it.” Airport procedures now meet the Government’s requirements and the scheme guidelines and Animal Health has given approval to four members of staff who trained on the Guide Dog Association course to become Animal Clearance Officers. Animal Clearance Officer Marie Abbott (pictured right) used the DEFRA approved scanner to check that the ‘chip’ in the dog’s neck matched the details in the Pet Passport whilst at check-in before proceeding to the security screening area and Departures.
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 are 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.”