BRITISH AIRWAYS was forced to apologise to a partially sighted woman after refusing to allow her to fly with her Guide dog by her side in breach of Government guidelines.
Wheelchair-bound Gail Jones who has multiple sclerosis and is registered blind was planning a healing pilgrimage in September to Lourdes, France.
Under guidelines introduced by the Department of Transport in March, companies should not charge extra fees for Guide Dogs. But BA told Mrs Jones that her dog Magic would have to travel in the hold on the flight to Toulouse and also that she would have to pay £300 plus VAT in quarantine fees.
Mrs Jones took her business elsewhere, rival carrier Air France were only too happy to allow Magic to travel in the passenger cabin at no extra cost. As a result, the group organising the pilgrimage booked the trip with Air France instead.
Because of her disabilities, Mrs Jones is supposed to have Magic with her at all times. The three year-old labrador acts as an assistant dog and can pick up her mobile phone, wallet or keys if she drops them and is trained to help her to sit up.
Mrs Jones from Birmingham said: "Its despicable for BA to behave in this way. Magic is well behaved and is certainly not a health risk."
The Royal National Institute for the Blind backed her up, accusing the airline of acting "immorally".
John Tangney of Tangney Tours, organisers of the Lourdes pilgrimage for 24 disabled people said: "I was amazed by BAs negative response."
The Department of Transport added: "In March, BA was supportive of our code which meant that guide dogs should travel free with the animal at the disabled persons feet, But, of course, the guidelines are voluntary."
BA is now changing its policy to allow guide dogs to travel on more of its European routes. A spokesman for BA said: "We apologise to Mrs Jones for any inconvenience. From next month, we will be introducing the Pets Travel Scheme across a number of routes, including Toulouse."