Southwest Airlines and Canine Companions – Advocating for Change at 36,000 Feet

Four smiling women seated in a row at a Southwest Airlines event, two of whom are wheelchair users, in front of a backdrop with the airline's logo and decorated with balloons reflecting the company's colors.Santa Rosa, California – It’s clearer skies ahead for air travelers with disabilities, thanks to a new committee dedicated to improving the travel experience for those who use assistive technology, including service dogs. As an industry leader, Canine Companions plays a big part in ensuring service dog users have a seat at the table.

Recently, Southwest Airlines committed to improving the travel experience for customers with disabilities created a new advisory panel comprised of four individuals and organizations that bring real-life experience to design effective solutions. This panel, called the Customer Accessibility Advisory Committee (CAAC), meets quarterly to advance access.

As our long-time partner, Southwest Airlines requested the insight of Canine Companions client Lauren Taylor with Service Dog Buchanan along with Becca Bell, our national program project manager, offering a place on the CAAC as advisors.

According to Southwest Airlines’ CAAC mission statement, “CAAC members will bring invaluable real-world perspectives to shape our policies, refine procedures, enhance training programs and steer future initiatives companywide.”

In October 2023, the advisory committee kicked off its first meeting, marking an important milestone on a path to greater access for our clients and people with disabilities across the country. CAAC continues to add new members from the disability community to ensure the representation of a diverse population of travelers.

“It was clear from the inaugural meeting that the Southwest Airlines leadership is dedicated to ensuring that every customer has a positive travel experience and that they are committed to identifying any areas in which that experience can be improved,” says Becca Bell. “We’re excited to work closely with the Southwest Airlines staff to ensure that service dog users, including our clients, experience the hospitality that Southwest Airlines is known for.”

We’re proud to be changemakers in the airline space and are grateful to Southwest Airlines for entrusting this role to our organization representatives. Together, our work with CAAC is making a difference wherever your destination may be.