UK-based airline, Virgin Atlantic, and charity organisation Guide Dogs have recently announced a long-term partnership that aims to create a more inclusive air travel experience for those with sight loss.
The initiative will offer the airline’s cabin crew bespoke training on how to support those flying with a visual impairment.
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 will also focus on the best position on the aircraft for guide dogs to rest on their long journeys.
The airline’s staff 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.
What the data shows
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 air because of previous negative experiences.
Despite this, over half (56%) have felt uncomfortable travelling by air 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 they would like to see airlines undertake training to understand how they could better support passengers with visual impairments, as the majority (84%) said they would feel more comfortable with air travel if cabin crew were better educated.
Additionally, 59% said they would 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.”