Anger as blind man left without guide dog on easyJet flight in admin error

A blind man was separated from his guide dog during a flight from Belfast to London.

Tony Barclay left his trusted companion at home when he made the trip earlier this week.

The 62-year-old was fearful that the dog could be seized or not allowed to return home on the easyJet flight.

The budget airline’s special assistance team had told Tony he needed to show evidence of a pet passport for Wallace including a rabies jab, despite the fact proposed restrictions requiring such documents have been delayed until October by Stormont.

It meant Tony needed to find care for his guide dog and pay for two more flights so his wife could accompany him on a trip to the Royal National Institute for the Blind headquarters in London where he is a volunteer.

EasyJet have said they are “incredibly sorry” for the mistake and are taking action to ensure the error is not repeated.

Tony from Carrickfergus, Co Antrim, said: “I’m literally lost without Wallace. He’s a German Shepherd/Retriever cross and the best companion and guide. We’ve been together constantly for four years.

“My wife describes me as blind without Wallace, because with him by my side I can do almost everything.

“He keeps me safe, he’s a comfort and a friend and he knows how I want to live my life day-to-day. He ensures I can do that.

“Having sight loss is generally described as a disability but I describe myself as being differently abled because I can manage with Wallace.

“But easyJet’s decision to basically bar Wallace from their domestic flight from Belfast to London, has disabled me all over again.”

The airline wrote to Tony to say he needed proof of Wallace’s pet passport in order for him to board the aircraft.

“I know this is not the case in law and they had no right to do that,” he continued.

“They said, ‘the dog also needs to meet the requirements of the UK Pet Passport Scheme as we cannot accept liability for any animals which are not correctly documented’.

“In other words, my guide dog needs to have the unnecessary rabies vaccination; the unnecessary worming treatment and a pet passport, provided by a vet.

“This is entirely the opposite of what the Assembly are saying.

“On June 1, (DUP leader) Edwin Poots announced that proposed restrictions on pet passports were on hold until at the very earliest October 1. But easyJet are still imposing the rules.

“It means if I travel with Wallace, there’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to get him back to Northern Ireland, indeed it is quite likely the airline will refuse him travel, and by default, me too.

“So we would be stuck in England.”

Tony was a police constable in the Cheshire Police before his eyesight started to degenerate, leaving him blind by the age of 36.

Tony explained: “I can use a white cane but I’m not used to it because I have my guide dog. I have been knocked down before and I’ve had a few near misses.

“So trying to get through life without Wallace has been terrible. My confidence is in my boots and I feel very emotional that I’ve had to leave him behind rather than take him with me.

“I feel upset, deeply emotional about the whole situation but mostly I just feel angry that we’ve been left in this fiasco.

“How do I explain to my dog that I’ll be back. He’s not used to being looked after by anyone else, he’s used to working, my constant companion.”

A spokeswoman for easyJet said: “We welcome passengers travelling with recognised assistance dogs and carry hundreds every year. We are incredibly sorry that Mr Barclay was provided with incorrect information about the requirements for his assistance dog to travel with us.

“This was unfortunately the result of a manual error which we are following up to ensure this does not happen in the future.

“We are in touch with Mr Barclay to apologise for his experience, clarify our policy and reimburse him in full for his flights, as well as providing flight vouchers as a gesture of goodwill.”