Guide dog working with deaf blind lady put into Quarantine by British Airways at Heathrow

We all expect that when we use a service (especially when we are paying for it), they will be aware of our individual needs and treat us in the right way. We would like to assume that staff have received the necessary training and the relevant information is clearly documented within internal processes. There is also the trust that staff have an awareness of what these are and how they apply to us.  This trust was broken when a guide dog working with a deaf blind lady was put into Quarantine by British Airways at Heathrow airport.

The expectation is only heightened when we come across companies such as British Airways, which fly to 183 destinations and serve more than 40 million customers a year. With a slogan of ‘To fly. To serve’ – service is considered to be a top priority for this high-profile brand.

This, unfortunately, was not the case when Molly Watt, a deaf-blind Advocate for those living with Accessibility Needs, took a recent trip to Berlin.

Her guide dog was unnecessarily taken into quarantine after British Airways staff questioned if Molly should be able to keep her dog Bella with her due to a tapeworm dose.

Access to Information

The issue became even more pronounced because the staff did not fully enable Molly to access this crucial and impactful information and missed out on key politeness and basic customer service considerations.

Molly is an empowered individual.  Before every flight, she had been in touch with the BA Social Media team; to ensure that her guide dog would meet her needs when flying.

It later transpired that there was no need for Bella to be taken into Quarantine, as the tapeworm dose had, in fact, already been administered prior to the trip.  She had, in fact, been given the wrong advice by staff; and was dealt with, in her words, with “zero humility”. This then led to Molly being without Bella for 2 days.

Molly said:

“There is no need for such poor customer care.  There are shining examples of fantastic training in areas like customer care, customer assistance and accessibility.  The world is not fully accessible to people like me and it becomes even less so with experiences like these.”

If this can happen to an avid traveller with a full understanding of what needs to happen, it highlights the gaps in the system and how deaf and deaf-blind customers are still being under-served.

It is crucial that companies first gain a clear understanding of their deaf and deaf-blind customers’ needs.  Then they know exactly how to make their offer work for the customer. And secondly, to use this intelligence to inform; staff training and internal processes so that the whole team operating throughout the business have the necessary knowledge.

Ironically, Molly describes that there is a lack of knowledge about her needs.  It is also clear that if the customer service she had received had been of a higher standard, she would have felt much less distressed dealing with this situation.

Something to think about…

Take a look here at Molly’s blog to read in detail about what happened –


Check out these articles:

Understanding your deaf customer journey 

1. The deaf customer experience – Solutions 

2. The deaf customer experience – Communication 

3. The deaf customer experience – Training