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Tiger Airways says 'no' to guide dog

Kua with his guide dog on a Singapore Airlines flight. He said that for the last eight years, he has had no problem bringing his dog on board other Singapore-run airlines. (PHOTO: COURTESY OF KUA CHENG HOCK)

Publication Date : 18-02-2013

 

But airline policy allows it for domestic flights within Australia

 

Over the last eight years, blind businessman Kua Cheng Hock has brought his guide dog Kendra along with him on flights to over 10 countries.

Last December, Tiger Airways became the first Singapore-based airline to refuse his request to bring his dog on board.

Kua, 57, said he has not had issues bringing his specially-trained labrador on board other Singapore-run carriers.

But when he called the airline a week before his departure date from Singapore to confirm his flight last December, he was told that guide dogs were not allowed on any international Tiger flight.

More than two months after he was offered a full refund for the cost of his flight, Kua said he has still not received it from the budget carrier.

Singapore-based air carriers generally allow guide dogs for blind or visually impaired passengers on board all flights to provide assistance to their owners.

But according to Tiger's policy as published on its website, such animals are allowed only on domestic flights within Australia, and not on any of its international flights.

Kua, the first person in Singapore to own a guide dog, found this puzzling.

"What if the flight originates from Australia, but the blind passenger wants to go to another country?" he asked. "Their policy doesn't make sense."

When asked, Tiger Airways sent a response last week to The Straits Times saying that "service dogs are more commonly used in Australia".

Tiger said in its statement that it has also "so far not received requests from passengers to bring their service dogs on board Tiger Singapore flights", and that they would "definitely consider" any request made.

Kua acknowledged there are currently only three guide dogs in Singapore, but pointed out that international visitors also bring their guide dogs to the Republic. Singapore's Guide Dogs Association of the Blind had announced its aim last year to bring in one guide dog to Singapore each year.

Guide dogs are allowed in Changi Airport, but passengers who require their dogs to be brought on board a flight have to obtain the necessary clearance directly from the airline, said a Changi Airport Group spokesman.

Permission to allow guide dogs on board most airlines hinges on some form of accreditation affirmation. SilkAir, for instance, requires verification that "the dog and its master must have undergone extensive training and are usually issued an identification card by the training centre".

In addition, the customer "must ensure that all government regulations and documentation requirements for the uplift, transit and disembarkation stations are complied with".

Tiger's policy appears to stand apart from those of other Singapore-based carriers such as Singapore Airlines, SilkAir, and Scoot, which all allow guide dogs.

SIA and SilkAir permit guide dogs to accompany their owners in the passenger cabin in any class.

Although it is not uncommon for carriers to limit the number of guide dogs per flight - Scoot allows only two guide dogs on board each aircraft - Tiger's budget carrier rival, Jetstar, does not impose any caps.

A Jetstar spokesman, when asked about the airline's policy, said: "Jetstar does not practise discrimination against passengers with special needs."

Major airlines such as Cathay Pacific and British Airways accommodate guide dogs, but Malaysia-based AirAsia has a strict no-animals policy on board all flights.

 

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