Meridiana airline take discrimination against blind people to a whole new level by refusing to carry guide dogs from Italy to the UK.
Italy’s second largest airline, Meridiana was caught in breach of EU Regulation (EC) 1107/2006, the law protecting the rights of passengers with special needs traveling by air.
“I am visually impaired and go about my life thanks to my guide dog Ares,” Mr Salvatore Petrucci said. “I was planning to visit my daughter who lives in the UK this April but the airline said they will not carry Ares.”
European Regulation requires EU carriers to transport recognised assistance dogs in the cabin of aircraft and places obligations on airport managing bodies to provide services for handling those dogs at airports.
Guide dogs entering the United Kingdom must meet the rules of the EU Pet Travel Scheme: the mandatory microchip implant, a rabies vaccination, a valid veterinary certificate or pet passport, and have undergone tapeworm treatment.
“Ares meets all Travel Scheme requirements, yet Meridiana will not accept him for travel,” Petrucci said.
Meridiana airline do not appear on the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency approved route list. Airlines authorised by the AHVLA to bring pets into Great Britain under the Pet Travel Scheme are responsible for checking that the animal meets the rules of the Scheme.
For guide dogs arriving by air, the airline may delegate those checks to a third party, such as the Animal Reception Centre at London Gatwick airport, Salvatore Petrucci’s intended point of arrival in the UK.
“Animal carriage is not available on flights from Italy to United Kingdom.,” the airline says on its website. Reduced Mobility Rights contacted the airline’s call centre on 21 March. We were told that “special rules apply to carriage of animals into the United Kingdoms and the airline does not meet said rules.” However, British Airways and easyjet provide the service on the same route.
Meridiana’ Ethical Code states “each of the Companies within the Group is intent on developing a company spirit of membership and condemns any form of discrimination and/or abuse both in internal and external relations.” Apparently the rule does not apply to Meridiana’s blind customers.
Reduced Mobility Rights believe Meridiana airline is knowingly breaching Regulation (EC) 1107/2006 to avoid incurring costs deriving from compliance to UK requirements. The incident has been referred to the directorate of the Italian Civil Aviation (ENAC) for review and enforcement.
The incident deals a major blow to the reputation of Meridiana’s founder and majority shareholder, British business magnate Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini Aga Khan (IV).