They love travelling together but it's not always stress-free or hassle-free. Airports are very busy places and travelling with a service dog requires a level of understanding, empathy and goodwill on behalf of the airport authorities and the airline.
The boys have been flying together for the past six years. They flown to Belgium, France, the UK, Spain and the USA. They're seasoned travellers at this stage but despite all those air miles the one airline they haven't flown was Ryanair.
That all changed three weeks ago when they flew Ryanair to Malaga .....
Murray's Mom was a little anxious that everything would go smoothly and with no complications so she had made sure to ring Ryanair Special Assistance and let them know about Clive weeks in advance and book special assistance. She also rang the Access & Education Officer in Irish Guide Dogs, Lean Kennedy who has advised her about travelling before and always given her useful hints about travelling with a service dog.
So Murray, Clive and family were well prepared before they arrived at Dublin Airport ....
However, they needn't have worried ....
From the Ryanair girl who happened to see them get out of their taxi and came running up to them saying she knew all about them and who took them over to the drop off point for their luggage to the crew - everyone in Ryanair went out of their way to be helpful and accommodating.
We were travelling through Dublin Airport on the busiest day of the year - two days before Christmas - and it was incredibly busy - but we were fast-tracked through security and the security personnel were wonderful with Clive and Murray, so Murray remained happy and calm and didn't mind Clive getting checked over.
At the boarding gate, we were advised to wait until all the other passengers were boarded before we took our seats - which had been allocated together at the front of the plane. When everyone else was seated the boys took their seats with lots of assistance and kind words from the crew. Their baggage was put up in the overhead area for them and boarding them last (unlike other airlines they have flown with) was fantastic and there was less time for the boys to get restless before the plane taxied. Murray doesn't enjoy the waiting around ....
On arrival in Malaga they were able to exit the plane first - again that made such a difference because as soon as the plane lands, Murray wants to get off, not to mention Clive - who although has no problems flying, really appreciates a quick exit so he can 'spend' as soon as possible. Again, other airlines often leave special assistance passengers last to exit the plane, which often stresses both Murray and Clive.
On the boys return to Dublin last week - everything went just as smoothly, at check-in in Malaga, the girl at the desk knew about and was expecting Clive. We were warmly welcomed, fast-tracked through security again, and the security personnel very understanding of Murray and Clive and even allowed them to go through the security barrier together. They also didn't require Clive to remove his jacket, allowed Murray to hold onto him at all times and made sure that Murray's Mom was checked through as quickly as possible to be with the boys.
Again, at the boarding gate, the Ryanair staff warmly welcomed the boys and assured them that they would be boarded last with seats at Row 3 already allocated to them and three seats together. It was a very full flights - lots of people returning home to Dublin after the Christmas holidays and it was incredibly busy! However, we boarded last, our seats waiting for us and the crew there to take our bags again and show us that they had made sure our overhead lockers were kept empty for our luggage.
The safety demonstration was the best one we have ever heard (and we've heard a lot) and Clive was even considered! Murray loved that! The steward in charge of our section of the plane was great with Murray and Clive and kept checking on them, offered water for Clive and took a real interest in the welfare of both boys.
As we approached Dublin, we were assured by the steward that the captain had radioed ahead to make sure that special assistance was available for us on landing in Dublin. When the plane landed, we were again first to disembark and waiting at the bottom of the steps was an airport employee to drive us across the concourse to the airport terminal. There we were met 'by name' by another gentleman who again made sure we were fine and asked if we could be assisted through the airport. We were fine, we had landed and the boys were just anxious to get through the terminal building and meet Murray's Dad who was waiting for them.
But we were incredibly impressed with Ryanair - it was one of the smoothest and most stress free trips we have experienced. We want to thank them and also we want to thank the airport staff from One Complete Solutions who assisted us on our journey.
We will certainly fly Ryanair again - they get a huge 'paws up' from us for their 'special needs friendly' -'service dog friendly' service!
- Clive & Co