RSB Assistance Dogs flying high with Virgin Australia

The Royal Society (RSB) for the Blind and Virgin Australia have announced an exciting new partnership which will see future RSB Guide and Assistance Dogs undertake training on Virgin Australia aircraft in Adelaide. 


On Thursday 25 August, 18-month-old trainee dog Kelli took a Virgin Australia flight from Adelaide to Melbourne with trainer Daniel Fitzgerald. Also in attendance to see them off were five-month-old RSB puppies Velvet and Winslet. 


It is important for these dogs to experience being on planes, with their handlers, so they are prepared when they fly with their client in the future. RSB Guide and Assistance dogs accompany their clients everywhere, including travelling interstate and overseas for work, to visit family and friends or on holidays. 


Sally Raphael, Executive Manager – Marketing and Fundraising said for a long time we’ve taken RSB Guide and Assistance Dogs on trains, buses and trams as part of their training. The missing piece was plane travel.  


“This partnership with Virgin Australia is brilliant because we’re also able to ensure the dogs know all the ins and outs of the airport and the plane for when they travel with their client in the future.”  


Guide and Assistance Dog Trainer Daniel Fitzgerald said “Familiarity is a huge part of our training program. Having regular access to the Virgin Australia planes is perfect for training our dogs for their working life.   


“They get to board the plane and experience the conditions for the flight. Going forward every single one of our RSB dogs will benefit from this training partnership with Virgin Australia.” 


Moving forward, RSB will hold regular training sessions with trainee dogs on Virgin Australia aircraft at Adelaide Airport. This training also improves the dogs’ ability to be comfortable in a variety of settings, enabling them to provide the best level of support to their client. 


The program is also a fantastic opportunity for the Virgin Australia team to become familiar with dog and client requirements, leading to a superior customer experience for those travelling with an assistance dog. 


Virgin Australia Chief Customer and Digital Officer, Paul Jones said “At Virgin Australia, we believe flying should be accessible and inclusive of everyone and we understand the importance of ensuring our team, systems and processes enable us to provide a travel experience that truly respects and caters to all our guests’ individual circumstances,” he said.