By LAURA LYNOTT
Blind woman refused easyJet flight because firm wouldn't let her guide dog travel
A blind woman who missed her flight home because budget airline easyJet refused to let her guide dog travel, said she is ‘upset, angry and disappointed’.
Joanna Jones had been due to board a flight from London’s Gatwick airport to Belfast International on Sunday - with her poodle/Labrador cross guide dog, Orla - but wasn’t allowed on the plane because staff said she didn’t have the correct paperwork.
Miss Jones said: ‘I’ve experienced discrimination before, but not to this level over such a minor detail.’
Here Miss Jones arrives at Belfast International Airport with Orla
Miss Jones, who had booked her flight months in advance and made a phone call ten days before flying to check her special assistance was booked and she said the airline knew she was travelling with a guide dog.
‘I was first asked if I had a passport for her - which you don’t need when you’re travelling domestically, that’s only for travelling abroad,’ said Miss Jones.
Gatwick Airport, where Miss Jones was not permitted to board her flight
‘I was then asked if I had any type of paperwork to prove she was a guide dog, which I don’t. So I pointed to her harness and the tag on her lead and collar and to the fact that I am obviously blind.
‘They went back to speak to people in head office and came back to me and said that, if I don’t have the paperwork, I wouldn’t be allowed to fly.’
She said: ‘I am totally frustrated and flabbergasted’ by the whole ordeal.
She has made the trip between England and Northern Ireland many times over the last 12 years, including on easyJet flights, and says she has never been asked for paperwork before.
Miss Jones from Lisburn in Northern Ireland completes the trip many times a year to visit her parents
‘I fly backwards and forwards a few times each year to see my parents, but now I’m left thinking oh goodness, who am I going to fly with next time and what’s going to be the easiest route for me to take?,’ she said.
In a statement from the Guide Dogs Association, Transport Policy Officer John Welsman said: ‘While what happened to Ms Jones is unfortunate, airlines do have rules which say that assistance dog owners must provide proof of their dog’s status.
‘Those rules are in place to protect passenger safety, and we would remind all our guide dog owners to carry their ID cards with them at all times.’
On Sunday, she contacted the Guide Dog Association through an emergency number and they sent basic details - including the computer number printed on Orla’s collar - to the service desk.
Miss Jones’ partner Barry Toner, who is also registered blind, has also lashed the budget airline for a ‘lack of common sense’ in dealing with the issue.
He said: ‘I got a phone-call from her at 7.30pm to say that they weren’t letting her board the aircraft because they didn’t believe that her guide dog was, in fact, a guide dog.
‘The dog was standing there wearing an official guide dog harness and had a medallion with the guide dog logo embossed on it and with the guide dog name and number and so forth - but that wasn’t sufficient.’
Miss Jones and Orla spent yesterday relaxing at home, but she has said she will be taking the matter further.