More than 43 million people pass through the thresholds of Sydney’s International Airport each year, the gateway from Australia leading to over 100 destinations in the world.
And undoubtedly, more than a few million would be nervous: maybe they’re first time flyers, or running late for boarding, or trying to wrangle check in with a couple of kids.
But from today, and for two days each week in its initial stage, passengers will be able to salve their travel angst at the check in for American Airlines, after a cuddle with an Assistance Dog.
Called emBark, the initiative is a first for an Australian airport, and quite possibly the world.
The specifically-trained assistance dogs waiting at check-in will offer a tipped head for rubbing, or a waiting chassis for a big hug.
The dogs are generally trained to help people with physical disabilities, post-traumatic stress, and autism, but their value at has also been realised at the airport during a two month pilot program.
The dogs are trained to recognise the tension that is visible to them in anxious people.
They’ll gently move in and nudge their target with the nose, or raise a paw in an attempt to generate a response.
image : 9news