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Published on : Tuesday, May 26, 2015
The updated policy comes after discussions held between Leone Sciberras, Chairman of the Malta Guide Dogs Foundation (MGDF), and Fabian Mizzi, Air Malta’s Passenger Handling Executive. Various internal meetings within the airline were held including Commercial, Ground Handling, International Affairs and the Cabin Safety Action Group. This led to a number of revisions of various airline manuals.
The discussion to allow assistance dogs on Air Malta flights started a number of years ago under the first Chairman of the MGDF, the late Ron Colombo.
As Mr Sciberras explained: “When Air Malta first allowed guide dogs to travel in the cabin of their flights, there were very few such dogs in Malta but the figure has now gone up to 13 in Malta and Gozo, and that figure is set to rise in the coming years. We thank Air Malta for having made this step forward and I have no doubt that the policy can be reviewed to keep up with the times.”
There was also consultation with the European Guide Dog Federation and the Assistance Dogs Europe, represented by Mark Van Gelder.
Mr Mizzi said the airline felt the need to update its policy because it is confident that, so long as the dog meets the full membership criteria of the International Guide Dog Federation or Assistance Dog International and the dog is well trained, it will pose no risk to other travelling passengers.
“Recognised Assistance Dogs include guide dogs, hearing dogs and service dogs that assist persons with disability or reduced mobility other than visual or hearing impairment.”
The policy, which aims to ensure best industry practices, outlines the procedures that have to be followed to request the carriage of an Assistance Dog in the cabin and where the handler is allowed to be seated. Air Malta’s Call Centre needs to be notified at least 48 hours before the flight’s published time of departure (in the case of travel to the UK this is seven days). The same applies for a return flight.