Monday morning at Sydney Airport, Guide Dog Brogan celebrated his 300th domestic flight alongside his handler, NSW businessman James Bennett. This milestone highlights the crucial role Guide Dogs play in providing people with low vision the independence to live the life they choose.
Brogan, who is almost seven years old, is thought to be Australia’s most frequent-flying Guide Dog as his handler Mr Bennett travels frequently for work.
“I’ve had Brogan for over four years now, which means we average about 75 flights each year. Without him, I wouldn’t be able to continue my work as a Disability Services Auditor as it involves so much travel. My job requires me to travel across the country at least every second week, if not every week. As my wife can’t come with me, I wouldn’t be able to do this without Brogan to guide me,” Mr Bennett said.
“Brogan is highly trained and never bats an eye about flying. He guides me through check in, security and boarding without issue, something I know can be very stressful for other people! Once on board, Brogan will lie down underneath my seat and enjoy a good snooze.”
The pair flew with Qantas to Alice Springs, where Mr Bennett is conducting a disability services audit. Mr Bennett, who has been completely blind since 2004, received an Order of Australia Medal in January for his services to the blind and low vision community.
“I hope Brogan and I can act as an example of how having a disability or vision impairment doesn’t mean you have to stop working or having an active and busy lifestyle. I also hope that when other passengers see Brogan at work they understand how important and hard-working Guide Dogs are,” Mr Bennett said.
Qantas is Mr Bennett’s preferred airline of choice, commending the airline for its customer service and understanding of disability access.
“I almost always fly with Qantas because of the service they provide to me and Brogan. He’s become a bit of a celebrity and we are both always treated with respect. The staff understand our rights of access as well as how important it is to not distract a working Guide Dog,” Mr Bennett said.
Qantas Head of Customer Experience and Product Development, Phil Capps said:
“We know that being able to travel with a special assistance dog makes a big difference for customers with disabilities. Last year, we had over 900 bookings for guide dogs around the country. For some customers, like James, it means they can continue working and travel away from home.
“We’re excited to welcome Brogan back on board for his 300th flight. We have no doubt that by now, he’s travelled on more flights than many of his fellow two-legged passengers onboard today.”
It costs more the $35,000 to breed, raise and train each Guide Dog, which are then carefully matched with a handler based on their lifestyle and needs. As Guide Dogs NSW/ACT provides all its services free of charge to clients, they are financially dependent on the community’s support.