Sunday, September 9, 2012

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Flying, Bathrooms and Service Dogs

We have had several experiences flying with our Southeastern Guide Dog puppies

and even thought the airline was the same, it really all came down to the personnel.  We always used US Airways and for the most part, they were great.  It was the return flight that was generally the problem (they weren't used to service dogs like Tampa people were).  However, we just recently had a raiser in South Pinellas group who had an incredibly bad experience with Southwest Airlines, that I just have to share: No Fly Zone!  

The TSA also has a general list of rights and guidelines of what their handlers can and will do when you and your service dog are going through the line.  It would be a good idea to make a copy of this webpage and have it in your purse/backpack if it seems the TSA agent is unsure how to pat down you or your dog.  It never hurts to be prepared.

I always have copies of shots and a note from the vet stating that the dog is good to travel.  This info is not required, but is nice to have on hand just in case. In addition, you can request an airline access letter from Southeastern (ask Katie Young) and that will detail you and your dog's credentials.  This letter must be requested at least 2-3 weeks in advance of your travel date in order to give them time to prepare and send it to you on letterhead.

Another thing I have found to be very helpful is knowing where the relief stations are.  It used to be that you could ask for a supervisor to escort you and your pup out onto the tarmac just before the fight and they would take you (they did this with Bingo, but not with Berkeley because of the Xmas underwear bomber.  They won't do that anymore in most cases.)  It was nice, because a lot of relief stations are back behind security!!  Now someone has come out with an app for finding those relief stations!  The app is called Where to Go.  It was created by Working Like Dogs and there is an app for the iphone and the android.

So, if you are making reservations and you are taking your pup, be sure to do the following:

  1. Send in a request for an airline access letter to Katie Young at Southeastern Guide Dogs at least two to three weeks BEFORE you plan on traveling.  She will be able to get you a letter on official letterhead attesting to your status with Southeastern, your dogs credentials, etc.
  2. Don't choose Southwest. 
  3. Do choose United/Continental who officially supports Southeastern Guide dogs in training or US Airways (I've had good luck with them).
  4. When making your reservations, tell them that you are bringing a service dog so that they can indicate that on your reservation from the very beginning.
  5. Download the Where To Go app
  6. Make sure you have all your documentation and also have duplicates in some other location as well.
  7. Have a back up plan in case something doesn't go right at the airport.
  8. Relax and enjoy your vacation.
Willow and Coach taking it easy on the back porch.
Willow and Coach taking it easy on the back porch.


  1. Thank you for posting Maggie's no flying experience. We can't wait to take her on a trip early next year and this app will be VERY helpful. Thanks for posting the TSA guidelines too. I'll have to print that out and bring it with us.

    1. Happy to help! I'm hoping that your post and your experience with Maggie will get a wider audience and that audience will get back with Southwest. I already heard from one of my co-workers who has a friend at AirTran, which is merging with Southwest, and she is passing on your experience! Perhaps a change will happen! 8-)