After months of not being able to travel due to COVID-19 restrictions, Chris Edwards was back in the air this week – albeit with a new travel companion, Seeing Eye Dog Eva.
Chris’ role as Vision Australia’s manager of government relations and advocacy, along with his passion for adventure, means he’s a regular on flights and in airport lounges across Australia.
For the past 10 years, Chris had been accompanied on just about all those trips with Odie, his first Seeing Eye Dog. After clocking up more than 100,000 kilometres on Virgin Australia flights alone, Odie retired earlier this year and Chris was matched with Eva, his successor.
Chris and Eva’s trip from Melbourne to Sydney on Virgin Australia flight VA819 was a long time coming for the pair.
“Her ability to be able to handle most situations has been a real strength of Eva’s. I’m really looking forward to seeing how she goes on the plane. It’s a big experience for her and obviously a big experience for both of us,” Chris said.
“It’s been fantastic to get back up flying again. It’s been a long break since COVID and to have the support I need form a Seeing Eye Dog to be able to get through the airport and get on to the plane and get back travelling again is going to be amazing,” he said
“Airports are challenging environment for everyone. But when you’re travelling with a Seeing Eye Dog it’s even more challenging. Having a dog that’s so well trained that can get through terminals, get through security and be able to feel confident that they’re doing the right thing is such a special thing.”
Caption: Eva took her first flight in her stride.
Making Chris and Eva’s first trip all the easier was the welcoming environment created by Virgin Australia on VA819.
Under law, Seeing Eye Dogs are permitted access to just about all public places, but Chris said many could learn from how Virgin Australia has welcomed both Eva and Odie.
Caption: Welcoming Eva and other Seeing Eye Dogs onboard makes flying so much easier for Chris and other handlers.
“Virgin have been amazing to support myself and my Seeing Eye Dog through so many trips and the experience continues to improve.
“People know what to do and what not to with a Seeing Eye Dog and it makes the journey so much more pleasant to have a company that really understands what the experience is like for someone travelling with a dog and what they need to do to support them.”