Preflight jitters are common for some travelers but America’s Friendliest Airport is offering a scratch behind the ear and a rub on the belly to calm those nerves.
Video by Jesse A. Millard, AZ BIG Media
Passengers and visitors to Sky Harbor will have the opportunity to pet and interact with a therapy dog while waiting to board a plane, picking up a passenger, or after landing in Phoenix. Navigator Buddies are dogs in a registered pet therapy program who will volunteer their time – along with their owners – to provide some tail-wagging comfort to airport travelers.
Airports nationwide have created animal-therapy programs and they have proven popular. The purpose of these programs is simple: Create a positive travel experience for travelers by offering assistance, comfort, and a way to reduce stress.
Navigator Buddies will interact with passengers both before and after security. And since they are part of the Navigator volunteer program, their handlers will also be ready to answer questions and provide directions to travelers.
To be accepted in the Navigator Buddies program, dogs must be in good standing with a qualified pet therapy organization. They must be vaccinated and have current health records; must be outgoing with a good temperament; and must have experience in a busy environment. Navigator Buddies are expected to be well-behaved and friendly, and not approach other traveling dogs or working animals, such as police K9 units.
As with employees, volunteers must be able to qualify for an airport security badge and be mobile.
In this pilot program, volunteer dogs and owners will be available at Sky Harbor every day. Times will vary. Each team will work a two hour shift every week.